By Chelsea Haith
“South Africa’s satirists, cartoonists, commentators and court jesters need, now more than ever, to be given the opportunity to be the public voice, the conscience, of the nation.”
Instead of announcing a featured artist for its 2015 edition, organisers of the National Arts Festival have decided to put satire at the forefront of the programme this year. Also featured on the programme is internationally lauded Irish comedian Dylan Moran.
This decision was made with the current political and artistic climate of South Africa in mind.
Ismail Mohamed, the Festival’s Artistic Director said the programme champions freedom of expression and that the Festival will therefore prominently feature South Africa’s best satirists, including Chester Missing, Loyiso Gola and the infamous Pieter-Dirk Uys.
The programme is intended to foster debate and to spur festival goers to engage with issues that concern all of South African society.
“In taking a strong advocacy and agitating angle, this year’s programme not only honours South Africa’s constitutional right to free speech, but also creates opportunities for South Africans to do what they do best – engage passionately and honestly about life in our country,” explained Mahomed.
Mahomed emphasised the importance of supporting satire particularly in South Africa.
He said the self-reflexivity inherent to satire allows those voices fighting tooth and nail for our freedom of expression to hold up a mirror to the face of our society.
“South Africa’s satirists, cartoonists, commentators and court jesters need, now more than ever, to be given the opportunity to be the public voice, the conscience of the nation,” Mahomed said.
A first for the Festival this year is the Arts Icon series, which will pay homage to Pieter Dirk-Uys.
This series will feature four of his productions and will include screenings of three of his films on the Film Festival circuit.
Evita Bezuidenhout will also be in attendance.
The theatre circuit is sparkling this year with three world premieres, three South African premieres and five new South African productions, including the Market Theatre’s writer and director Craig Higginson’s The Imagined Land.
While the Standard Bank Jazz Festival is always well attended and this year features international acts from Taiwan, Austria and America and Holland, there will also be local acts such as Beatenberg, Shortstraw, Thandiswa Mazwai and MiCasa on the Main programme.
The official programme is expected to be released at the end of April and bookings for the festival open on 8 May.
This article was originally published by Grocott’s Mail on 19 March 2015.