Each year, the National Arts Festival celebrates the work of a Featured Artist – a South African artist who has consistently exhibited ground-breaking work and exceptional talent, helping to shape the arts narrative of the country. The Featured Artist is showcased at the Festival through previous and new works forming a snapshot of their career in action.

Previous Featured Artists include musician and composer Neo Muyanga (2017), director Lara Foot (2016), the genre of satire (2015), director Sylvaine Strike (2014), and director Mike van Graan (2013).

The Featured Artist for 2018 is dancer and choreographer Mamela Nyamza. This marks the first time a dancer and choreographer has been made Featured Artist at the National Arts Festival.

Says David April, a member of the National Arts Festival’s Artistic Committee and the 2018 Dance Programme Curator: “Nyamza encapsulates what Nina Simone once articulated – that an artist’s duty, as far as she is concerned, is to reflect the times, might they be painters, sculptors, poets, musicians.

‘Nyamza’s work remains politically charged and tackles issues which also challenge societal norms on amongst other things religion and gender-related matters. It is quite fitting that audiences far and wide will be given the opportunity to witness her work.’ – NAF Dance Programme Curator, David April

Mamela will present more than one work at the Festival. One of the confirmed works is Hatched, a sequel to Mamela’s previous work Hatch, where she explored the changes in her life with the birth of her son. Mamela continues to reflect on her life as a mother and artist, exploring deeply personal and challenging issues of culture, tradition and a woman’s evolving sexuality within the customary rites and rituals of marriage.

Contrasting movement, vocabulary and accompaniments from different cultures, Mamela’s artistry brings together both classical Western music and dance, and also traditional African vocal scores and grounded movement. Ten years after Hatch, the new work will again feature Mamela’s son Amkele, who performed in this production when he was just eight, and who will join her again for this performance at 18 years old.

Says Mamela: “I have always been inspired by a saying that without losing, winning or getting rewards isn’t so great! So, I have strived, got rejected, but still strived with doing my art with the knowledge that one day my work can get appreciated if not recognised. I am truly humbled and honoured to get this recognition from the National Arts Festival. Without doubt, this Festival remains one of the platforms in South Africa that continues to strive along with artists, enabling them to reach their fullest potential and beyond. My greatest appreciation to all the sponsors who make this possible”.

Mamela’s other works at the Festival will be announced soon. Early bird booking for her shows will open in April.

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