Festival's Hands on! Masks off! Strengthens International Links
Sâmir Bhamra, artistic director of UK based dance-theatre company Phizzical, has been awarded funding from the British Council for a new collaboration with the South African theatre company Hearts and Eyes. Phizzical is a touring dance-theatre company that produces cutting edge works inspired by Indian cinema. Hearts and Eyes theatre has a strong repertoire of socially provocative work.
Bhamra travelled to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2009 as one of fifteen ambassadors of Sustained Theatre. During the trip, as part of the Festival's Hands on! Masks off! Programme, he met Peter Hayes, director of Hearts and Eyes and the possibility of collaboration emerged. Hayes invited Bhamra to participate in a workshop in Cape Town where they shared their practices.
In May 2010, Bhamra supported the tour of the Hearts and Eyes production Ncamisa: The Women, which was part of the National Arts Festival Fringe, to the Dublin Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival. During this visit, both practitioners felt that the play needed to be developed further to examine the growing discourse in migration, crime and internationalism. In October 2010, Hayes took part in the UK segment of the international AfroVibes Festival where the two artists were given space at The Drum to interrogate their proposed idea, and the first outline of a story was shaped.
The funding from the British Council will now enable them to bring the new project to the 2012 National Arts Festival.
Bhamra commented, “I am delighted to hear about the financial support from British Council towards the research and development of a new dramatic text. This important collaboration with South Africa will enable us to write a visceral production to première at the National Arts Festival and Edinburgh Festival in 2012."
"It is these kinds of success stories that we find totally inspiring," said National Arts Festival Director Ismail Mahomed. "It gives us reason to believe that the Festival's Hands On! Masks Off! programme is reaching its mandate of creating greater opportunities and networks for artists that allows them to break the many glass ceilings that exist in the sector," he added.
Other South African artists who have participated in the National Arts Festival’s Hands On! Masks Off! programme and formed strong international linkages include Philippa de Villiers, Lebo Mashile, Brink Scholtz, as well as a large group of South African artists who will be collaborating with an Argentine theatre company to produce a spectacular street theatre production at the Festival this year.
“The National Arts Festival recognizes the potential of South African artists to participate in the global arts economy and we will continue to devise strategies that enable our artists to forge the right networks to advance their careers”, he added.
The Hands On! Masks Off! programme is supported by Business and Arts South Africa (BASA) and the National Arts Council, and aims to build the entrepreneurial skills of the arts community. The programme brings together some of the country’s leading arts entrepreneurs at the Festival in Grahamstown to share their skills and knowledge with new generation of arts managers.
Another project running over the course of the Festival includes the artists residency programme, the Remix Laboratory. The participants will attend workshops, seminars, performances and visits to galleries and will be mentored in arts practice and arts appreciation. The project aims to build the creative skills of community based artists.
Other projects that will again be part of this year’s Festival is the Arkworks Collective, the Art Factory, the ArtsReach programme, the Skills for the Market project (which gave rise to the Phezulu Stiltwalkers), and many more.
As a trendsetter for South African festivals, the National Arts Festival will continue to demonstrate its strong commitment to being a socially responsible and environmentally friendly festival. The Festival has various development projects running for 30 June – 10 July, of which many extend throughout the year.
The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The Eastern Cape Government, The National Arts Council, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, The Sunday Independent and M Net.