Jennifer Ferguson sings for healing at the Baxter

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Jennifer Ferguson. February 2011. Beryl Court Roof. Photo by Suzy Bernstein.
Jennifer Ferguson. February 2011. Beryl Court Roof. Photo by Suzy Bernstein.

The Baxter Theatre Centre, in partnership with Peace of Music and The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative, has great pleasure in welcoming Jennifer Ferguson and Company back to the Baxter stage after a long absence.

Following on the heels of her opening performance at The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative’s (FATC), My Body My Space: Public Arts Festival (MBMS), singer-songwriter Jennifer Ferguson is heading to Cape Town to perform a series of four emotive concerts called JENNIFER #wetoo, at the Baxter Concert Hall from 4 to 7 April at 8pm.

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Sparked by the #metoo viral campaign, which took social media by storm in 2017 and saw numerous women across the globe speak out with claims of sexual harassment and assault, Ferguson’s concerts are a creative response to the recent disclosure of her rape. “I want to go beyond the personal #metoo to a universal #wetoo,” she says. “JENNIFER could be you or me. My story is just one of tens of thousands. We need to look at other ways of dealing with the culture of sexual violence and admit the current judicial system is failing too many of us. Restorative, even narrative justice offers something different as a path to healing the individual and the community. As an artist, I can stand in my truth and own my story on the stage without compromise. Music has traditionally been used to heal personal and collective trauma. Creativity is a powerful response to atrocities. I hope that this sharing of song and stories will empower us to speak our truth, to restore societal balance and to heal.’’

Jennifer Ferguson and Anders Nyberg. Photo by Suzy Bernstein.
Jennifer Ferguson and Anders Nyberg. Photo by Suzy Bernstein.

JENNIFER #wetoo will feature special guest artists Zolani Mahola and Tina Schouw, both who have been activists in their own right. Some of Cape Town’s best musicians will play with Jennifer, including Mark Franzman, Ronan Skillen and Shaun Jacobs, plus a very special appearance by the Cape Town Youth Choir’s Vocal Ensemble. Renowned choral conductor and co-scriptwriter of the Swedish Academy award-nominated film, As it is in Heaven, Anders Nyberg, will share the musical direction.

The concerts will feature the joyful and the introspective, but will mostly be an articulated celebration of the human spirit. “It’s a song-communion of a kind for all of us who have been hurt, somewhere, sometime. Men and women. So hopefully we can rise again with a matured vision of a more courageous and authentic life. After the storm we rise and sing again… Together,” says Ferguson.

JENNIFER #wetoo is made even more poignant by the fact that Ferguson is performing with her family, who are all just as talented. Her husband, Anders, is musical director, composer and conductor while their children – son Gabriel Nyberg and daughter Johanna Nyberg – will perform alongside her on stage. Gabriel is a talented multi-instrumentalist and composer in his own right and Johanna, who has Downs Syndrome, loves being on stage and will solo in a moving ballad, My Temple, My Home, a song composed with Cape Town activist musician Su Lubner to campaign against child abuse.

The JENNIFER #wetoo concerts are hopefully the beginning of a future project in partnership with FATC. “We, like everyone in South Africa, want a country where sexual violence is no longer the norm and where survivors of sexual crimes are empowered to speak out, are met with care and respect and a form of justice that heals not only themselves, but the community as a whole,” says Ferguson. “We want to work in close consultation with and support various organisations which have for many years been doing really hard, remarkable work in the field of sexual violence. We hope to open spaces for conversations around the difficult aspects of our inter-relationships, and men need to be part of this as well.”

Ferguson has been known for her insightful and uncompromising spirit which has consistently reflected in her activism and her music throughout the decades. Her award-winning recordings defined many of the complexities of the 80’s with anthemic songs around military conscription, the white suburban malaise and the rich textures of South Africa’s narratives of the struggle for freedom.

In the 90s she worked in parliament under Nelson Mandela’s presidency. During a tour of Sweden as an MP and artist in 1993, she met Anders Nyberg, her husband of 21 years. He had worked internationally in solidarity with the Liberation Struggle and even in the Cape townships as a choral researcher during the 80s. Their mutual passion for music, spirituality and social justice helped bring them together and continues to sustain them.

Jennifer’s first collaboration with FATC was in 2003, for its When Life Happens Festival, the first HIV/AIDS-focused festival of its kind in South Africa.

Ferguson decided to shift base to Sweden to accommodate the special needs of her daughter Johanna when she turned 10 years old. She lives a fairly reclusive life focusing on her music, choral workshops and concerts, sound healing and teaching. She also co-leads an integration choir. ‘‘Life in Sweden has given me the gift of another culture, a rare gift of original wilderness, a country where access to the land is enshrined constitutionally and some truly amazing music. I can work and walk in peace. But still there is nothing, ever, quite like home,” she says.

Tickets for the JENNIFER #wetoo concerts from 4 to 7 April are R195 with an Early Bird Special of R120 only valid until 16 March and discounts for students and pensioners on presentation of valid identification. Booking is through Webtickets on 086 111 0005, online at www.webtickets.co.za or at selected Pick n Pay outlets.

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