Eastern Cape hosts the popular National Arts Festival for the first time since Grahamstown was renamed Makhanda. Having fetched some accolades at 2018’s event, the Northern Cape will be represented by two productions in 2019.
However, their work is not without challenges; the artists are seeking government funding to support their creations.
Bisi Ka Jobela with his production, Umthombo, and Thabo Mothlabi with his film production, Economic Freedom; will be hitting the stage this week at the National Arts Festival. Both productions are themed around freedom and expression, using youth as instruments to tell their stories.
Vocal warm up outside our performance venue come through Centenary Hall to watch our Brand new musical straight from the Northern Cape #NAF19 #Umthombo @artsfestival @MabijaMkhululi @tebogogxubane pic.twitter.com/ApdYzPmj4u
— Bisi B Creations (@bisib_creations) June 28, 2019
Bisi Ka Jobela’s production, Emathongeni won the Silver Standard Bank Ovation award at the 2018 National Arts Festival. In 2019, with celebration, fantasy, and a swarm of kids; Jobela’s Umthombo boasts over 100 cast members. He says it is based on the life of a wedding entertainer.
“It is based on the life of a wedding entertainer, Nonzokwazi. It is about love, hatred, and peace-making. What you can take back with you is that hate and evil does not win, love always prevails.”
With very little support, Jobela says his aim is to assist young people by keeping them off the street and onto the stage. Arts, he says, is critical to developing young minds.
“We chose to bring it back home and give back to these kids because we are seeing them doing funny things; they into alcohol, drugs, and teenage pregnancy. So for us to have these kids in this production, we want to show them that the arts are the things that can help them for their future to be bright lawyers, to be magnificent nurses and to take charge of their lives.”
— Bisi B Creations (@bisib_creations) June 23, 2019
Economic Freedom is the second production from Northern Cape that will be hitting the national stage. Mothlabi has highlighted artists’ struggles.
“I’m not saying we want hand outs, but when you are an artist here, if you want to do drama lessons; where do you go? I can’t tell you. When you go for funding, where do you go? There’s only one outlet that has minimal funding for the whole province for the whole year.”
The Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa fights for the plight of artists in the country . The federation’s secretary general, Phemelo Sediti, says artists are expecting processes driven by development.
“The department has been focusing on commemorative events and artists are expected to perform at these events. Most of the programs have been event driven. Artists are expecting process driven where there is an element of development and at the end of the development, then we can have these events where they can showcase their talents.”
As artists head off to the National Arts Festival, they hope to inspire audiences, but they are also hoping that the expanded Department of Arts and Culture will bring a new dawn for artists in the province and nationally.