CityLife Arts

Windybrow Arts Centre gives platform to emerging artists to explore hot themes this Mandela Month

By Edward Tsumele

The current situation of the pandemic without doubt has made life difficult and uncertain, affecting mostly vulnerable sectors in society, specially the creative sector that has seen shows canceled or postponed as a result. These developments in turn have left artists vulnerable and in a financially precarious position with no ways of earning income in some cases and also leaving them to deal with the stress of not practicing their art.

Windybrow Arts Centre, situated right in the heart of Hillbrow, however has come up with innovative ways of not only creating work and offering an opportunity for artists to practice their craft, but also to connect with its immediate environment and the people who live within its vicinity by using digital platforms. The Windybrow Arts Centre, which is one of the business units of the Market Theatre Foundation, has in fact been using these platforms for a while now, especially since the arrival of Covid-19, forcing the country into several risk adjusted lockdowns in the past 18 months, with the current lockdown being at Level 4.  

In response to these challenges the centre has taken one of its most innovative projects, which initially was meant to be a project attended by live audiences physically, both from within the local community as well as from afar, to the digital space.  And this programme taking place for the first time this month, will become an annual showcase of a feast of artistic genres, ranging from music performances, visual art, dance, poetry to theatre. The programme called Art Emerge – N – See is aimed particularly at new talent yearning and hungry for a platform that would give them exposure and earn some income at the same time.

The participation of the artists selected for this programme was through a call that was sent out in June 2021, in which those interested were invited to submit video of their presentations. The call was targeted at poets, actors, dancers, solo musicians, and visual artists, and the response has been good.

Those selected their work will be streamed online by Windybrow this month of July, a significant month in South Africa because it is a month that has generally been regarded as Mandela Month in recognition of former President and freedom icon, the late Nelson Mandela, who was born on July 18.

Therefore significantly during this Mandela Month, 10 Emerging artists from different artistic genres, are emerging and allowing us to see their work in this online series titled Aluta Continua. Each episode presents a different theme in relation to the title. This Mandela Month explores artistic expressions of conflicting views though, and therefore is thought provoking. 

Aluta Continua – The struggle continues, is significantly important as a platform of self expression especially because this marks 27 years of freedom in South Africa, at a time when a debate is currently raging on about whether the country has reached where it is supposed to be post 1994. The views in society are not unanimous on this point, and therefore engaging these artists to explore conflicting themes in their presentation became necessary framing this series. Audiences are therefore invited to engage with the works on line.

Artist in the call were asked to respond to the following titles: Undiscovered Revolutionaries’ |‘The beautiful Ones are not yet born’| ‘Curious Continent Concepts’ |‘I am not a Rock and We are the ones we have been waiting for. All these themes speak to differing movements pulling our society into different directions. The participating artists were therefore challenged to voice their perceptions of the themes and express, as creators and makers, how their work brings these ideas to life. In Mandela Month, a month of recognition now mutating to have different meanings for segmented parts of society, these works  are an attempt to analyse the differing voices and conversations that this time of the year brings to light In everyday conversations in South Africa. The series is taking place under the auspices of Windybrow Arts Centre, and the dates are 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th July 2021 and 5 August 2021. The programme  can now be accessed online by audiences from anywhere as it is on Windybrow’s  Facebook page, going live every Thursday from July 8, 2021.

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