5 must-sees at the Live Art Festival

2017-02-05 06:01

Cape Town – The Institute for Creative Arts’ annual Live Art festival will be taking over Cape Town this February for the third time. 

With a 2017 programme that is bigger, more cutting edge, and more overwhelming than it has ever been, Garreth van Niekerk speaks to festival director Jay Pather.

Pather says there are so many excellent things happening, he couldn’t pick just five. Here are his recommendations:

1) The Veterans S

When you hear ‘performance art,’ you always think of young people throwing shit on the wall, but this section is a way of reminding us that there are people who have been doing this for more than 40 years. People like Steven Cohen who is a legend in the genre and others like Mamela Nyamza who – when she won the Standard Bank Young Artist dance award – caused a bit of controversy because she took such a jump from simply being a choreographer into the heart of what performance art actually is. Donna Kukama has long been working with other media and is steadfast about deconstructing art-making and process. Jelili Atiku, despite being arrested many times, continues these extreme performances that he’s done for so many years. Hassan and Hussein Essop have long been in the performance space, and their work this year will be taking quite an intimate, ancient ritual and putting it into a public space.

2) The Diasporic Travellers

These are artists who emerge from the continent, but traverse several spaces. Nora Chipaumire epitomises this layering of experiences, that a country only puts paid to a person who is indigenous to the place they were born. Samson Kambalu, in his various contexts, embodies these multiple identities. Larry Achiampong, from Ghana, does that as well by combining the visual arts and music. Panaibra Canda is an extraordinary artist from Mozambique, who references the death of traditional dance, acknowledging the limits of tight traditions. Rudy van der Merwe has become quite a rising star in choreography. Meghna Singh from New Delhi will be doing a work on migration, particularly about the trading of goods and the people who work with them. Robert Machiri and Memory Biwa reference these sorts of tenuous past lives by placing them in a local context.

3) Mavericks from Dance

A lot of performance art actually first appeared on dance platforms such as Dance Umbrella, but today, many eschew this kind of dance language. Foofwa d’Imoblite works a lot with parody and satire in an interesting way. Alan Parker also comes from the kind of dance performance at Rhodes University, a kind of “thinking person’s dance”, but uses the dance language in a stripped-down way. Jackie Job, who is formally trained, developed this interest in Butoh and now looks at speed in dance. Gavin Krastin has always straddled theatre and dance with work that is full of beauty, but not always easy to stomach. Thalia Laric turns the idea of well-mediated choreography on its head once again.

4) The Young Upstarts S

The Young Upstarts will be cross with me because they have actually been around for a while, with the likes of Sethembile Msezane having been in the visual arts for a long time. She is somebody whose performances embody a sense of time – quite the on-the-pulse kind of artist. Khanyisile Mbongwa has come through a variety of different media, but this work has looked at understanding the township alleyways as public spaces, breaking new ground in those spaces that were only meant to separate one shack from another. Lesiba Mabitsela comes from fashion and performances that pushed boundaries around how we see clothing - that finds a way to combine his political consciousness with performance art. Kamagelo Molobye combines masculinities in a space that is working with heterosexual men about a language of male-ness that you can wear and take off again.

5) The Warriors

All performance artists are warriors on some level. Gabrielle Goliath has taken another level that deals with violence and abuse using opera singers. Zanele Muholi has foregrounded a range of rights – from queer to women – but more and more serves a constant reminder of the intersection of art and activism that is unrelenting. Buhlebezwe Siwani and Chuma Sopotela are working together to create a sophisticated feminist reading of contemporary black womanhood. Dean Hutton has been a performance art warrior for many years, but the recent F*ck White People artwork has been both disturbing and inspiring because they are unfazed by the threats on their life.

*Check out the full programme at ica.uct.ac.za. All performances are free, so make sure you get there early.

(Photos: Supplied)

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