This weekend at the NSA’s Festival of the Arts

The annual Festival of the Arts, presented by the National School of the Arts (NSA) in Braamfontein, moves into its weekend programme of art, dance, drama and music; with the festival concluding on 10 March 2019.


Curated with a teenage audience in mind, and offered in this specialist education environment, this Festival offers high school learners and members of the public a chance to engage with a multitude of art forms. Social issues take the spotlight; from Jan Guillou’s provocative production of ‘Evil’ about the cycle of abuse and bullying, performed by Jaques Da Silva; to ‘Too Late’ – Gibson Kente’s 1975 South African musical explosion of passion and power, which was written in run up to the 1976 youth uprisings and provides a snap-shot of the past, and was considered by many at the time to be prophetic; to the building of an EcoBrick bench on the school premises.

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The EcoBrick bench can be viewed at the Art Department, slowly and surely taking shape. An eco-brick is a plastic bottle packed with plastic to a set density to create a reusable building block. Ecobricks are used to make modular furniture, garden spaces and full-scale buildings such as schools and houses. This is just one of a series of eco-focused activations and installations taking place at the school during the festival, which include Well Worn Theatre’s climate change protest poem, ‘Burning Rebellion’, performed in the ‘fairy garden’ on the NSA field, the Bramble Fountain Food Garden generative biological artwork on the Melle St bank, expressions of Land Art facilitated by Erica Luttich from the Boitumelo Project at the Outreach Foundation, and a pop-up Gallery focused on the Hydroponics project on the field.

In the Foyer of the main school building, 36 painted guitars float in space in a breath-taking visual display, thanks to the creative efforts of the Grade 10s. The visual arts “exhibition of excellence” is on display in the gallery in the Art Department. It features the top work from various 2018 projects based on marks received from Grade 8 – 11. Their tasks included: Creating A Graphic Novel/Comic Book, This is Me – Geometric Illustration, Alphabet Representation, Colours Speak In All Languages, Reframing History through Appropriation, and the evocatively-themed Dichotomy, The Man in the Mirror and Psychosis. Also on offer is a rare chance to see a selection of the body of work which earned distinction for the NSA matric learners in 2018, including 2 Dimensional Drawings/Posters, 3 Dimensional Works, Fashion Garments and Mobile Sculptures.

The emerging filmmakers and animators in the Art Department have raised the barre with a remarkable short film and animation festival that they have produced from concept to completion. Featured on the line-up is the stirring thought-provoking 30-minute animation, LUNA, directed by Tumelo Matabola. Emotional, whimsical and insightful with impressive characters and articulation, the young team of gifted artists have worked against the clock to produce a notable animated film that looks at depression, this film is made the more remarkable given the fact that all the creatives are in Grade 11. Simangaliso Sibaya has three of his animated works as part of the screening; Stop Drawing, City Rulers, and Cartoons in the Real World. Keanu Sousa Mendes also has three short films on the line-up; Fall of a Student, The Mind Museum, and The House Always Wins from the 2017 48 Hour Film Festival (a film capturing the recurrent themes of bullying within a school, and depths of pressures of school work and tests/exams). Mendes was also responsible for the expressive image seen on the ‘Bridges & Arches’ poster.

This year’s ‘dance spectrum’ performance of ‘Bridges & Arches’ sees our NSA learners taught by four of our country’s leading female dance-makers: the 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, Kitty Phetla; Shanell Winlock-Pearlman, Nadine Buys, and Spanish dance innovator Rosana Maya; in a production that explores new connections and horizons. Weekend performances are at 11:00 and 19:30 on Saturday 9 March and at 12:00 on Sunday 10 March. It runs as a double-bill with ‘Too Late’ on Friday 8 March, starting at 19:30.

The Bard’s irreverent ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ plays at the Fringe at Joburg Theatre, with its final performance on Saturday 9 March at 14:30 pm. Set in an urban plastic jungle, this contemporary version is adapted and directed by NSA educators Laine Butler and Johan Anker, and performed with an understanding of comedy and pop-culture, and a youthful audacity, that makes it unexpectedly relatable; while top productions from the Original Works festival will have their final performances on Saturday 9 March between 9:00 and 12:00.

The festival allows the school campus – positioned as it is in the heart of Braamfontein – to act as an appropriate host to engagement from a number of surrounding communities, including the likes of the Outreach Foundation, Hillsong, Luke Lamprecht’s Fight with Insight, the Children’s Memorial Institute, Johannesburg Youth Ballet, City Varsity, Moving into Dance, the Reimagination Foundation through their MADDD Lab programme, Wits University, and of course our ‘professional home’ at Joburg Theatre and the Representative Council of Learner’s chosen charity, Malaika Children’s Home.

The NSA learners are dressed in a Festival T-shirt featuring an inspiring design depicting all the arts, by Mpho Lairi in Grade 11, assisted by NSA alumni Katlego Deseko.

The NSA celebrates 50 years in 2019, and the Festival will close with a special singing of ‘happy birthday’, and a rousing rendition of the school song, in which all alumni are invited to participate. A Festival Day Pass costs R150 and affords the ticket holder access to all productions. Bookings can be made through or Webtickets. The full programme is available on


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