Under the banner of the University of Johannesburg (UJ), UJ Arts & Culture, a division of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), is pushing boundaries. The essence of interdisciplinarity is embodied at this year’s National Arts Festival (NAF) in Grahamstown. A comprehensive programme across arts genres provides insight into the range of cultural engagements offered in and beyond their campus context.
The UJ offering at this year’s National Arts Festival is being guided and overseen by Director and Dramaturge Alby Michaels, who explains that, “working across generations, creative disciplines, cities and spaces affords us opportunities for deep engagement and collaboration with partners. As a result, this is a programme that truly transcends traditional boundaries, and one I’m most proud to present.”
In line with UJ Arts & Culture’s programmatic theme of metamorphosis, UJ Art Gallery and the MTN SA Foundation present an exhibition entitled ‘SHIFTING CONVERSATIONS’, which includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs and installations by predominantly South African artists; these thematically explore conversations in response to binaries such as ‘colonised’ and ‘coloniser’ prevalent within the collections of the two institutions, with the aim of inviting new ways of experiencing art. In the Grahamstown Gallery throughout the Festival, with guided walkabouts on 29 June and 05 July.
In addition to student-focused events held throughout the year, UJ Arts Academy continues to provide a platform through which UJ students can learn or hone skills across a range of artistic, creative and related disciplines, by way of focused contact with industry professionals. One such type of engagement is presented this year on the National Arts Festival Fringe. Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, and directed by Namatshego Khutsoane, CHOIR BOY features UJ Arts Academy students, alongside respected professional actors Renos Spanoudes and Lebohang Motaung; it tells the story of a young man who wants nothing more than to take his rightful place as leader of the school’s legendary gospel choir. Victoria Theatre, 04–07 July.
UJ Arts & Culture’s all-new play development platform, STAGED, in partnership with the National Arts Festival, is a public-facing extension of the hugely successful UJ CAN YOU? programme, which actively identifies and develops hidden talent from amongst UJ’s 50 000 students. Similarly, STAGED seeks to nurture new plays and professional talent for the national stage, by showcasing selected works to local and international producers and presenters.
Featured productions for 2018 explore the impact of complex social constructs on personal stories, and include Wynne Bredenkamp’s AT THE EDGE OF THE LIGHT (South Africa), Joakim Daun’s THE INCIDENT (Sweden/Zimbabwe/South Africa), Maude Sandham and Nicola Pilkington’s TRACKS (South Africa), and Greg MacArthur’s A CITY (Canada/South Africa). STAGED is supported by the High Commission of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts, curated by Alby Michaels and produced by Nobesuthu Rayi; in the Rehearsal Room, 02– 05 July.
At UJ, engagement with creative approaches goes far beyond offering personal development opportunities outside of a formal curriculum environment. A ground-breaking programme pioneered by the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), implemented by UJ Arts & Culture and faculty staff, brings a production of Reza de Wet’s haunting AFRICAN GOTHIC to life, through an extraordinary interdisciplinary and collaborative process.
In 2017, more than 300 second-year students, across FADA’s eight departments, worked together to create and present their proposals for the various elements required to mount this production, resulting in a series of professionally-staged developmental performances, bringing together the best of the design elements in a real-world scenario. The resultant practical learnings have since been incorporated into a further refined offering, with the remarkable cast of Liezl de Kock, Zak Hendrikz, Mpho Osei-Tutu and Olive Strachan. This will be presented as a fully-fledged production on the Main programme at this year’s National Arts Festival (06–08 July), and later at the Joburg Theatre (20–27 July).
Professor Federico Freschi, Executive Dean of UJ’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, also claims an artistic place on the programme. As an accomplished baritone, Freschi presents, IF I LOVED YOU, in collaboration with renowned Steinway pianist Christopher Duigan, and visiting saxophonist from Barcelona David Salleras. Their sensitively-crafted programme offers a touch of nostalgia, through beautiful melodies from the world of popular song, classic musicals and the world’s concert stages. Included are selections from Noel Coward, Cole Porter, CAMELOT and CAROUSEL, Spanish songs (including the showstopper, ‘Granada’), inspirational moments and celebrated classical art-songs by Faure, Tchaikovsky and others. In the Beethoven Room, 04–05 July.
Audiences are also afforded opportunities to engage further with the intellectual aspects of work presented across the Festival’s Main programme, by continuing the conversation through a series of one-off post-performance discussions with directors and casts, guided by arts industry professionals.
Please consult the NAF programme for details of programming.
Stay up to date with the conversation. Please visit www.uj.ac.za/arts for more information on all upcoming events at UJ Arts & Culture.