Grahamstown is ready to thrill lovers of the arts

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

The Grahamstown National Arts Festival is essentially about the performing art - but it is also about the arts in general.

One of the well-represented disciplines at this year's festival, which runs from June 26 until July 5, are the visual arts. Interesting and even controversial prints, paintings and drawings will be on display.

Artists and curators are said to be hard at work mounting a variety of exhibitions that will provide visitors with plenty of soul food as well as art to chew over and discuss.

Once again the Main Festival programme exhibitions will be reinforced by a series of walkabouts during which visitors can discuss the work with art experts.

Wonderland, a dazzling, high-energy collection of photographs by Nontsikelelo "Lolo" Veleko, captures the essence of Jozi street style.

This year's Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner uses her camera in the way a novelist uses words to lure us into a "through-the-looking-glass" world.

Obie Oberholzer's photographic exhibition, The Hotazel Years, takes viewers beyond the mainstream into the quirky backwoods of South Africa.

Over the years his unique vision has taught us to recognise and love his art.

Contemporary dance is the focus of a large faculty of photographers working in Germany. A selection of their work, titled Frozen in Time and presented by the Goethe Institute, will be a highlight.

Family snapshots and old letters were Maureen de Jager's point of departure. Her exhibition, In Sepia, uses images and texts engraved in rusting steel to reflect on the mutability of memory.

There are also white sculptures, gradually stained by rust, growing on the steel embedded in them.

Texts merged with visual messages are the unifying discourse for Lefoko, Igama, Dibu, Word - a collection by four artists practising in Botswana.

Each has drawn from her or his own linguistic memory bank - Setswana, isiXhosa and North American poetry are among the words that are entwined with the work.

Time is the starting point for the curators of two other exhibitions on the programme: Decade andAndrew Verster's Past-Present.

Decade features highlights of 10 years of acquisition for the Sanlam Art Collection. Since 1997 about 544 works have been added to this representative archive of South African art.

To mark Sanlam's 90th anniversary 83 works, ranging in time from 1896, have been selected for the festival show.

The Andrew Verster exhibition, which is curated by Carol Brown and Verster, charts the creativity and playfulness of a master. The works include paintings, drawings, costumes and Verster's latest wax works on tissue.

Curation plays a key role in Art from the Ground Up, a body of work by Eastern Cape artists, originally selected for a show in Saxony in Germany.