Loss, memorialisation and women are prevalent on the Performance Art programme at this year’s National Arts Festival, which runs from 28 June to 8 July.

Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art 2018 Chuma Sopotela will present INDLULAMTHI. ‘Indluamthi’ is the isiXhosa word for a giraffe but, in direct translation, it also means ‘the ones who are taller than the trees’.

Sopetela uses this image to celebrate the children who are on the pavements of Grahamstown. The piece will be performed on the streets of Grahamstown and, using video, sound and performance elements, seeks to challenge our thinking of currency; and the connection between people. ‘At height, INDLULAMTHI will be almost a statue element, which will then dissolve into nothingness again,’ says Sopotela.

Steven Cohen

Steven Cohen



Between Horizons


Bridging the gap between performance and visual art, formidable artist Steven Cohen will perform his work, put your heart under your feet… and walk/ To Elu, an intense meditation on loss, grief and absence, following the death of Elu, Cohen’s partner and artistic collaborator. Shocking, sad, beautiful and uncomfortable all at once, it is an unforgettable piece.

Gabrielle Goliath has presented ELEGY performances in various parts of the world, and will be presenting the Eastern Cape premiere of the work at the National Arts Festival.  A long-term commemorative performance project staged in various locations and contexts, each performance calls together a group of female vocal performers who collectively enact a ritual of mourning. Durational and physically taxing, the performance sustains a kind of sung cry – evoking the presence of an absent individual.

The Mothertongue Project’s WALK is a performance piece created in response to Maya Krishna Rao’s The Walk, crafted after the 2012 rape and murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandeyby six men on a Delhi bus.

WALK is a South African response focused on the gang-rape and murder of Anene Booysen, a South African teenager. WALK is a way to honour these women and to talk honestly about rape culture. The cast includes Koleka Putuma, Rehane Abrahams, Sara Matchett, Siphumeze Khundayi, Nolufefe Ntshuntshe, Genna Gardini and Lukhanyiso Skosana.

An international team of artists working in our current epoch have collaborated to create BETWEEN HORIZONS. Inviting audiences to consider how our lives are shaped by circumstance, privilege, and transformation, the piece is choreographed and performed by Kieron Jina (South Africa) and Marc Philipp Gabriel (Germany).

The Performance Art programme has been co-curated by Artistic Committee members Lara Bye and Ernestine White-Mifetu. “This programme touches upon all these different aspects of the lived experiences of a human being that makes it really relevant and hopefully we will be able to attract a really diverse audience,” says White-Mifetu in an interview.

WATCH: An interview with Ernestine White-Mifetu

Main image: Chuma Sopotela, Indluamthi