Plett ARTS Fest: How Woke Are You? A review
A blog by Wandisile Sebezo
It’s always a delight to see artists depict their vision of the world through their personal mediums, and this year’s Plett ARTS Festival did just that- afforded participating artists the opportunity to relay their view of the world through their craft. From dancer and choreographer Mamela Mnyamza questioning power structures in society, to dramatic artist Wezile Mgibe depicting how taxing and draining the system is for African artists, to Femi Koya singing about the importance of water and how we, humans, take water for granted (and this happens to be a very important issue on our part of the world, particularly throughout the Cape).
Certainly the Plett ARTS Festival has been on some real revolutionary stroke, giving power to these words by Polish-American novelist Jerzy Kosinski, “the principle of true art is not to portray, but to evoke,” or as American novelist and social critic James Baldwin puts it that “artists are here to disturb the peace.”
At the start of the festival, in one of my previous article blogs, I asked – How woke are you? And argued that the Plett ARTS Festival is promising to demonstrate social consciousness, and it indeed delivered on that promise. After watching documentaries of Miriam Makeba and Oliver Tambo, many of the festival goers I spoke to confessed of how much they didn’t know (myself included) about these great South African legends, and the immense contribution they made to our society.
The Plett ARTS Festival was on its fourth year, under the stewardship of the efficient Plett Tourism body and ran from the 25th of June to the 9th of July. It came with a multi-layered programme and covered just about every genre; from music, fashion, documentaries, film, food, gallerires and exhibitions to the performing arts.
For me, these were my favourite acts; Luxolo Ndabani’s Unravelling, a drama about sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and retribution. The fact that Luxolo is a Plett born artist who is now doing wonders in Johannesburg, is reason enough to celebrate and support his work, bravo!
The Plett 24 Hour Reunion by FriCreatives is another success story we need to celebrate, despite many setbacks, they continue to blossom. It’s probably the only fashion show in the region that has managed to make headlines, it even featured on SABC 3’s Expresso. In the process it has produced designers, models and entrepreneurs of the fashion industry.
It was also great to have AFRIDOCS in Plett with their wonderful and educational documentaries. The highlight for me was Have you heard from Johannesburg: Oliver Tambo, which was personally introduced by living anti-apartheid struggle stalwart and executive producer of the film, Justice Albie Sachs. The doccie highlighted the life and times of perhaps one of the most important freedom fighters South Africa as ever seen, the man who kept the ANC alive when it was banned and many of its leaders imprisoned on Robben Island. It was released in 2017 to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of this great leader – Oliver Reginald Tambo.
Miriam Makeba’s documentary blew me away, it was really a gem. It shocks me that there’s so much we don’t really know about the very same people we hold into high regard. She was indeed Mama Africa.
And not to forget Richard Nwamba who was just amazing, a lot of us had to put a human face to a voice we’ve heard on radio for over two decades. His knowledge of African music and its history is unmatched.
Topped with soothing sounds of Pops Mohamed, Ronan Skillien, Dave Reynold and Charlton Daniels, great African pieces that I enjoyed – with the use of traditional musical instruments. I also enjoyed Femi Koya and the Afro-Beat Band, what a humble character he is.
In an increasingly volatile world where freedom of speech is threatened, and where artists are afraid to be themselves because they fear being side-lined from government sponsored gigs, I say kudos to those artist who dare speak truth to power, those who dare evoke, and disturb the peace indeed.
If you happened to have missed it, do yourself a great favour and make a note in your diary right now to attend next year. The Plett Arts Festival was from the 25th of June – 9th of July this year, so keep an eye on the website www.pletttourism.com and be sure to book for 2019.