Grahams Town Festival

Article Written By:

Joy Ndlela

The National Arts Festival held annually in Grahamstown was where I spent a week of my vacation, and what happened down there was an amazing experience. On the bus there (12hrs) I had expectations and reservations but I told myself that will hinder my experience so I decided to open my mind. I arrived just as the day was about to start and went straight to the Rhodes University sports ground, which was converted to a market place called ‘Village Green.’ This market showcases all that is arts and crafts from your friendship bracelets to clothing to food and yes… Alcohol. The star attraction of the market for mainly the youth is the Windhoek tent. It’s always buzzing particularly in the mid-afternoon, it was like the “watering hole” of this make-shift village and the villagers gather around to have some sundowners and share their daily escapades. The art work on showcase is exquisite and equally as expensive and for those on a budget this place is painful to window shop. A more affordable market place was situated at the end of New Street. Village Green is the place to start of every day as there are high chances of receiving freebies from the artist who come to promote their shows. Walking along the streets there is excitement in the air because of the constant drumming and traditional dancing performed on the streets.

That same evening we went out to dinner at The Grub and Grog a restaurant on Somerset Street. This is where we met some cast members of the play showcasing at the Masonic Back called “The Suit”, with them is Jamie Bartlett (David Genaro in Rhythm City) who didn’t stay long but came across as a genuine person- humble. The Play loosely, is based on a black middle- class man (Philemon) who hears of his wife’s adultery and decides to dish out unusual punishment to her, which eventually leads to her death by humiliation… I watched the play and I must say that it’s a grabbing and having never really watched a professional theatre play before I was captivated from the start. I had a chat with Moila “Wits” Lesenyeho, Danny Mokalo who plays “Philemon” and Mpho Lovinga who plays the dashing lover. Moila or Wits as he likes to be called works for the Performing Arts Centre of  the Free State (P.A.C.O.F.S) as an Artistic Manager. Stated that every director has a way in which they want to interpret the play, they take the words written and bring them to life for the audience to engage and enjoy. Dannny Mokalo came back to theatre after five years working in government and missed the arts and performing too much that he came back to play the lead here replacing Fana Mokoena. He is the event co-ordinator of the Manaung African Cultral Festival, MACUFE (1- 10 October 2011), he said that the festival has changed from the days when he was in University and came here to perform. “People use to sleep in their sleeping bags under the sky- it was kind of like Woodstock only bigger and longer…” Danny is going to be performing in Wits next production- The Letter a play he wrote. Mpho Lovinga of max and Mona fame plays the role of the lover and another character.He is now based in Bloemfontain in is focusing on showcasing the talent Free State has to offer. “Theres talent there it’s just that we’re being sidelined for bigger cities such as Jo’burg, Cape Town and Durban.” He advised young actors to not think that “getting into character” 2 hours before they due to perform is enough to give the audience the full experience  he says “you must breath the character from the moment you wake up to performance” MACUFE will see the premier of his documentary he’s developing with Thamie Moleko about the African National Congress (ANC) celebrating their centenary activism in politics.

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