the United Colours of Africa

Johannesburg Joburg Jozi Egoli

Everybody gets their 15 minutes in Joburg

City known as a rite of passage. An energy, cosmopolitan life, multi-cultural melting pot of people, thriving commercial hub and creative scene catering for a diversity of tastes and experiences.

Publisher Laurice Tait says :

To be a true Joburger (while not my favorite term, it beats the competition) you have to believe that there's gold to be found and go after it. This city was built on the search for something elusive and precious. It's a place that enflames passions and has a distinct heartbeat. There is no slow lane. 

Joburg gets under your skin in the way of great cities of the world like New York and Tokyo. It's brash and alive, and with no mountain or sea, it's the people here who are the city's gold, citizens of the world who have made their home across the city, bringing the flavour and colour of where they come from to this dusty patch. One of Africa's most unique cities there's not much you can't find here, from little Ethiopia downtown to Cyrildene's Chinatown, the old Portuguese neighborhoods of the South of Joburg to West African Yeoville. Truly, many worlds in one place.  

Festival Director Roshnie Moonsammy thinks:

The energy  of the people , the cosmopolitan life … the mixture of Africa and the West … the Hybridity  of different cultures that makes Joburg unique. It is also the New York of Africa. Also  people in Joburg are very open to other people , in the workplace, community and to tourists. There is a genuine openness and acceptance of difference and diversity  in Joburg more than any other city in South Africa.  The people are beautiful,  there is colour and rhythm in the way they move, engage with you, dress.. and embrace difference.

Visit the Theatre: Joburg Theatre, Market Theatre, Orbit Jazz Club…, Check the programme at the Soweto Theatre,  have a meal in Parkhurst,  Visit Arts on Main, pop into the Apartheid Museum, Definitely take a drive to Cradle of Humankind,  Muldersdrift Meander,  if they have time visit the Sterkfontein Caves, Emmerentia  Park. ; lion park and Rhino park

The people give the city its energy and vibrancy and makes Joburg city people the most interesting in South Africa. The people also are affected by the pace of Joburg and the diversity  of opportunities that exist… in fact  the opportunities are in abundance in Joburg… comparable to most interesting cities in the world… Joburg is what you make of it and what it makes of you…

At the same time … Joburg  is not too large to contain  you … because of the network of people and organisation … you  never need to feel alone in Joburg  or an island… there are always  networks of people and communities to embrace and share as well as challenge your  world … and its views… …In fact for ordinary people … especially those with energy and attitude … the pillars of  power  and social life seem very accessible in Joburg… Government,  Con Court,  Courts, Police,  The banking ,Health, Universities, schools,  parks ,  ha ha ha and Prison life…

Of course being  a local has its advantages…but at the same time even if you were not a local, it all about the energy  and  openness you have to engaging with Joburg and its people . You don't have to be born in Joburg to  reap its   benefits of community and people , industry opportunities.,  industry networks.. unlike other places.. Joburg is what  you want to make of it and what you allow it to make of you.

Market Theatre Director Ismail Mohammed:

Newtown is home to the Market Theatre. With more than 350 awards and a 41-year history the Market Theatre is celebratory of its past, anchored to the present and visionary about its future. The Market Theatre remains at the forefront of producing and presenting cutting edge work that has an authentic African artistic voice and which is inclusive of the rich tapestry of African diversity. Newtown is a meeting point for diverse cultures and exciting innovation.

It is here where a visitor can brush shoulders with artists working in a range of genres including theatre, dance, music, film and graffiti art. Nestled between the old buildings are bronze statues of two of South Africa's most iconic artists, pop diva Brenda Fassie and the jazz muso Kippie Mooeketsi.

A vibrant addition to the Newtown precinct is the architecturally modern Market Square which is home to the Market Theatre Laboratory and the Market Photo Workshop. Across the road from the Mary Fitzgerald Square is the Worker's Museum and the Sci Bono Museum. A visit to Newtown could be fully day of inspiration, education and entertainment.

Afropunk comes to Johannesburg

Matthew Morgan Interview:

Our plan is to be here. Since I have maybe ten years left before I go and do something else, I love the idea of having an office in South Africa where we work from, for the continent. 5 years is the contract we have with Conhill venue, but our aspirations are to be here a lot longer.

One of the beautiful things that we do, owning your own business and being able to travel, you are constantly learning. Often when we make decisions about going to another country you start learning no matter how much pre planning you have done before you get there.

I have been in the country off and on this year for nearly 5 months. This particular trip has been 3 months. The biggest difficulty was everybody breaks on the 15 th or 16 th .

Coming to Joburg initially and deciding we wanted to bring a festival at the time of the year the people normally exit the city. It was a very conscious decision to bring something meaningful back to the city and give people the economic opportunity to make money at a time that is generally quiet. The challenges are great but the rewards are high. And we didn't realise how large the challenges would actually be. When people say they don't want to work after the 16 th they really don't want to work. Trailer companies, heavy equipment, fencing, waste management – we had real issues in that regard. We learnt a lot about how early we need to be. From a financial perspective it was very difficult because people required 100% up front, which stressed cash flows and for a new entity was difficult. That was not something we anticipated, when we get quotes and we got closer people said they were not going to do it. We had a very challenging relationship with one of our ticketing partners which created an enormous amount of stress. We learnt who to work with and the options. Planning a lot earlier …

One of the surprises has been the level of trained skills. When you have combed through the people not to work with and you have found the people to work with, there are some exceptional people here, extremely creative, very skilled and professional; and that was very rewarding. We are taking a bunch of staff who have been working with us to the US and other cities which I am extremely happy about, particularly our production manager. Our production manager has a business here and is someone who has become my right hand to book talent and my assistant. We found some really good people to become part of our global family rather than SA specific. We want to be a transition for culture and the business community and we want to add skills both ways and have that manifest itself.

Clinton Seery that is our production manager, Warren Bokwe, Shannon Ogle and Lesego Madikong.

I had a good meeting with the MEC yesterday, the minister of culture for the province and the focus was now that we have met we are working towards working with ESCOD, style again from Soweto, vintage designers from Maboneng and how do we extend that relationship?

We did SA fashion week. We are trying to incorporate ESCOD into SA fashion week. And how do we help elevate that here. And how do we get their goods out of SA. It is easy for us to sell it on the ground at festivals. But there is loads of potential to export, even on website sales. I met with great CMT's and great people here and in Cape Town. The design seems to be in Joburg and the manufacture in Cape Town. Because we are everywhere we can use that.

We have already redesigned the venue. And we are pushing for 15000 next year with tons of emergency exits. It would have to be across the entire site. With the re-plan that we have we are comfortable with 13 odd thousand. It has never been my desire to have a mega 60 thousand people upwards. I grew up in a suburban environment in East London in the UK with festivals far away from where I lived and my focus is on - how do you create an environment in the city that you could experience - where you would normally have to travel far away which excludes people. Our audience has become in nearly every city 50% who travel from outside into the city. I don't know that I will be looking any time soon for a place that accommodates 50 or 60 thousand.

Afropunk is not for everybody. We have gone 16 odd years without a fight or an arrest at everything we have ever done. How many people know why they are there? We do not know the critical mass in Johannesburg. A beautiful site may manifest. We have never done camping and that is something we have spoken about. And maybe SA will be the place where we start a camping festival. I am open but I am also mindful that we want to maintain rather a 15 – 20 thousand people space for 15 to 20 years that people relish than guys who expand into a much larger number and lose the essence of what the festival is about.

Dawn Robertson CEO at Conhill is the reason we are there and here and not somewhere else. She is like a missing family member. She is absolutely incredible. She guides us and supports us. Our visions align. She helped craft “We the people” for us last year that became our mantra and our identity around the world at all our festivals. Battle of the Bands was actually crafted with Siya from Brother Moves On. When we thing about identifying new bands and how they come through what has become a very cluttered mailbox for me where I get hundreds a day of requests for bands. How do we do that in a real way and how do we build a live audience and venues and rehearsal spaces in Joburg that currently don't exist. That was many conversations with Siya in Paris, New York and SA. That is why we go to Tsakane and Tembisa and Pretoria, Soweto and Newtown. That was conversations with Siya about art organisations and supporting folk on the ground and trying to create a live scene here and getting to bands that are not necessarily the ones we would get to if we just went out in the normal promo way to sign up bands.

I was here for 6 weeks doing battle of the bands before going to the festival and that was very challenging going into unconventional venues, working with promoters, weather conditions – it was very challenging. We will continue to do it because the aspiration to grow a live scene is there. That was almost more challenging then the festival itself.

It is education and support. Venues live venues are built by people and young people. When I think of Bonnaroo and Super Flight guys – they were young people that started promoting shows. I started with managing bands and I wanted to put them on something. I started booking shows that I could put them on. There has to be support and education for young people and venue and equipment options for them to start. It is very difficult. There doesn't seem to be a great desire for a live music scene.

I am not quite sure why because there are lots of bands. Hip Hop and Gqom and digital music and set up decks, Black Coffee etc seems to be an easier barrier to entry. But SAMRO need to do a much better job!

The bands are there. There is a lot of talent. I am obsessed with Gqom at the moment. I haven't been as excited about a genre for a long time. It is DJ based but it is something I love because it is very South African. In the live music scene one of the bands I absolutely loved was Radio 123. It feels like it came from here and that is important to me particularly in sharing music. There is a lot of music here that sounds like US hip hop and I have absolutely no interest. Because I have seen the best that that can be and I want stuff that is South African that we can share. So, Manthe Ribane spectacular, Automatik, a band that I followed for a while, the lead singer was in a band called Ree-burth which we featured many years ago. He is from here.

Warren started introducing Lag and Rude Boys and I saw Sho Madjozi who I am obsessed with.

I used to manage Santigold in a punk band called Stiffed and she recreated herself. Sho Madjozi reminds me of her in the best possible way like an African version of Santi and MIA. She is Tsonga and she has taken traditional Tsonga dance and made it useful and the dress and culture to the forefront. She sings and raps in Tsonga. It is incredible.

Spoke Mathambo's record is one of my favourites this year. It sounds like a great mix tape. It is brilliant. I love when you incorporate and make what you do different as opposed to trying to do what everyone is doing.

My partner Jocelyn Cooper – I have big ideas and want to do lots of things Champaign taste and beer money and we had to keep the ticket price down which is important to us. It is very challenging but I think the advertising has to come.

They say in the US, advertising before it truly understands who the audience is becomes a multi-racial, multi-culture industry. It is on the surface but certainly not on the inside. They don't understand who the audience is. They say it will take 66 years before it will catch up in the US, which is ridiculous. I don't think it will be that long. You are constantly fighting because brands want to identify with an audience. I have always been totally confused that we have been able to galvanise and build a community and movement. And we understand what those touch points are and how we do that. They say they want to do that but they come along and do completely the opposite. And a lot of that has to do with not having people at the brands that actually understand and then they don't give you the freedom to build in the way you would. It is one of the most challenging aspects. There are some great people and when we find them we want to hold on to them. Advertising experiential marketing here is probably like the 80s in the US – banners and VIP and stuff that is not really what we are about. It is important to people here.

People's aspirations – they come to afropunk and have somewhat of an understanding most of the time. When we go to a new city there is a core of 3 – 5% that have been to other cities that understand the culture and what the movement is about. And then there are people who want what they get at Delicious and put it on top of Afropunk – and that is when I say it is not for everybody. It is never going to be a Cape Town Jazz VIP experience.

With Conhill we are doing an economic impact study. We are working with Margie at SA Tourism on a review and an economic study on the event that just happened. Margie has been an absolute godsend. You have some people here that despite what you hear about the corruption and crime, there are some spectacular people here, Margie Whitehouse is head of marketing.

This year we filled 4 hotels, we employed 1068 people. 3000 (30%) people from abroad, Europe and the US. A lot more people from W and EC. 56% from Gauteng. We exceeded expectation.

You saw people singing on the Saturday.

We will have 5 or 6 artists, hopefully Black Coffee will spearhead a SA stage in NY. We will see if we get support from the Minister of Culture and Tourism. But without a doubt an act or two in Paris. We already had Black Motion and DJ Maphorisa last year in Brooklyn. We will have more this year.

Interview Dawn Robertson

We had 20 000 people over the two days. It was 3100 international people, including Africa, Europe and US. Quite a few hotels were booked out, Hallmark, Maboneng. One of the tactics we used was to work with travel movements. There is research emerging about black people travelling from the States. There are 8 to 10 companies working with Mellennials around travelling. Tastemakers have opened up an office in Joburg. We worked closely with Black and abroad. Those groups came in and rented accommodation. The owners of the group travel with the people and immerse them in unique experiences. 3000 international visitors. The highest number outside of Joburg was from Cape Town and there is even a group called the Cape Town Afropunkers. The ‘I am joburg' project opened up certain precincts that did quite well during that time as well. I am Joburg was a legacy project for Afroounk to make sure that young emerging entrepreneurs got the travel experience business once they were here. The social media reach – I am Joburg had a reach of 39 million, which was double afropunk Joburg. Gauteng tourism reached 9 – 10 Million and COJ 59 000! If you look at mapping at where people were searching for it, it mirrors completely the afropunk reach. It is very clear that people who were coming to afropunk were searching for local experiences. That project will have good reach next year. Margie a SAT will be signing joint marketing agreements with travel agencies in the source markets and I am Joburg will be the official accredited experience provider. Hopefully through that we can build the capacity of the local operators. People were most interested in the unique experiences we curate – for example the arts and justice tour in the court with a law clerk. There were food experiences. Ponte for example, they raved about it and loved the experiences they had there. Gerald at Jozi Hangout weren't opening over December and they did and wouldn't regret it. The Red Bus, there were days when it was full. The whole face of Johannesburg has changed. It is a combination of the economy. Generally people have been staycationing, but I think the international visitors are a reflection of afropunk. For us we are trying to bring them in as close as possible after Christmas and then keep them for a week after the event. A lot of the visitors moved off to Cape Town after then event. And we want to see if we can push them into Durban. Obviously our partnership with SAT is about dispersing people. But the first prize for us was actually growing the visitor numbers in Johannesburg at a time when we used to get no international visitors.

Phase 1 was getting the park ready for afropunk. Phase 2 kicks in now. We have funding from the National Department of Tourism. A lot of the banks and slopes, 4M all the way round will increase the capacity. Unlike other countries JOCs City of Johannesburg, only gives you permission for the numbers in front of your main stage. It is largely based on the spare space you have to accommodate people. We will definitely get it up to about 12 000 with the new design and the extension of the park.

We have a preliminary report which shows you how many businesses actually benefitted from the event. These are the SMME's that benefitted from a production point of view, market access opportunity was all the people selling at the food and spendthrift markets and then the actual people who were employed by afropunk for the year. What we can get for you is an analysis of the tickets, where they were purchased. The impact assesstment will look at economical , environmental etc.

“We the people,” was our campaign that we were rolling out for the coming of age of the constitution. When he saw that he thought it was perfect and took it all to the festivals around the world.

Joburg will always be and they want to grow it to the main pinnacle event – almost like a home-coming. They will continue using the slogan, “All roads lead to Joburg,” and they will be pushing Joburg from the first festival in Paris, London, New York, Atlanta and then Joburg.

Matthew is very interested in growing young talent. He is fascinated that Gearhouse for example has this whole Roadie training programme that they do that does not exist in America. He wants to send roadies from America to Gearhouse to get their training here. There are a lot of opportunities that can open up as a result of this.

Finding something that is a fit with Conhill – the value the ethos the sentiments people express, the fact that you can be free to yourself, the culture that was exposed – has completely aligned. When I came here I was looking for an international festival to put us on the international map – it has more than exceeded my expectations.

He wants to do a range of events that grows the movement, concerts to he is conversation with Trevor Noah to do something around about the 16 th of December this year. We have an agreement with him that he has the space for December. If he puts the stage up at the beginning of December what other events can he do? The idea is if you are going to invest in that stage use it to do other events. Also things like the Solution sessions (which they run in Atlanta), do those throughout the year. He already partners with us on Basha Uhuru which is our big youth festival we have in June. His partnerships with the SMME's for example the clothing company that did the merchandise. They had the licence to produce the afropunk range. He now wants to produce for all the other festivals in South Africa and then ship them out. He is very keen on making South Africa his main hub. I think if he could move here he would. He is looking into buying a building. And a lot of the artists that were here are interested in buying property. Two of his staff members are negotiating property already. There has been a huge interest of people wanting to invest.

We always say 5 years at Conhill because it could exceed the size of Conhill, but he doesn't want to go to big like the 30 000 a day they do in Brooklyn. He would rather do multiple events and settle on the 12 – 15 thousand. The other events are smaller than JHB. It is the second biggest.

Battle of the Bands is about unearthing live music talent. The park when it is completed will be able to host a range of products, markets, outdoor cinema and opens up for the community. It is the People's Park. From Conhill perspective the fiscus dries up and the challenges of education and health reduce our budgets on a daily basis so it is about us trying to grow our own revenue to keep the site open.

The first site you see outside the Women's jail, that constructions tender has just been advertised in the tender bulletin. That is going to be the new visitors centre. 5 stories – the ground floor is the museum of the constitution. 2 nd floor is the archive of the constitution and is open for scholars to access. It also has the visitors centre for tourism. It opens onto the square so has coffee shops merchandising shops and that is where I am Joburg will be located. And a 600 person conference centre on the next floor. And office space above and a roof top venue for live events. And that building belongs to Conhill and will go up. The other land pastles under development, that is for the office of the chief justice which is currently tenanted in Midrand. And the Justice college and one or two of the Chapter 9s will move there. That is currently out on phase 1, what they call TA 1 of a PP partnership. The nurses home behind the Queen Vic, we are finalising funding from one of the international donor agencies to convert that into an NGO hub for NGOs working the art and social justice space. That is full donor funded and about R70 M. The Queen Vic is out on a PPP at the moment with the intention of converting to hotel apartments particular because the Justice College is moving in and all the judges from all over the country come up here to be trained over an extended period of time.

In the meantime the ground-floor has been renovated and there are 20 small businesses working the creative sector and having taken occupation as office space. Some of them have done exhibitions, there are photographers and videographers there.

The first building will be completed in about 12 months. TA 1 will be completed in about 6 months. TA 1 is the feasibility study and the potential. They for example are meeting with the Justice College to find out what their needs are and then it goes out to find a developer who will develop for those needs!

Because afropunk is going to do multiple events and events in other places they start on Monday. They are employed fulltime – there are 4 or 5 of them.

Battle of the Bands was successful. Matthew partnered with existing organisations as he wanted to build a capacity there. In Tembisa they had about 10 000 people but there was no security and safety. So he is reconsidering how he does it next year.

Solange wants to come in May but the Park won't be ready till June.

Understanding the international sound guys and how they wanted to be set up was a challenge. But they managed it quite well. They are looking at creating a suspended sound engineers desk for next year so it doesn't obscure participants view.

Even if you look at the new grand positioning of Constitution Hill which is growing concurrently it is about building a movement of independent thinkers – people who dare to be different. And that is the stuff that is coming out and is pretty much the audience we are getting at Conhil. Basha grew from a very small event and had 12 000 people last year. Basha is around freedom, creative economy and what young people are doing. There are a lot of dialogues, exhibitions, workshops, summits and we are putting together a youth summit. The challenge now is how do I differentiate Basha from Afropunk. So we are looking at making Basha younger and finding a voice for younger people as t is in the school holidays and how do we create these conversations for much younger black people. Basha includes film festivals, workshops, Pechacoocha sessions were young creative talk about the work they are doing.


The Annual Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival :

Beginning in 1992, Arts Alive was borne out of the transformational phase of South Africa and provides a dramatic and dynamic journey through the vibrant, diverse and evocative African city from an African Diaspora perspective.

Glen Mosokoane, director of the cultural development unit in government said, “ Arts Alive brought to South Africa a lot of music we could not otherwise see.”

South Africans were introduced to African artists from the continent in the mid to late 90s with musicians like Salif Keita, Baba Maal, Cesaria Evora, Youssou N'Dour, Oumou Sangare, Oliver Mtukundzi and Cheikh Lo coming for the festival.

“Johannesburg is undoubtedly a melting pot for everything African. The character of the city has completely morphed to a true African character to the extent that it's difficult to distinguish a pure South African accent from that from outside the borders. From Maboneng to Yeoville, Alexandra Township to Hillbrow, African culture permeates everyday life of a Joburger,” says, director of Moshito, Sipho Sithole.

Roshnie Moonsammy : Johannesburg Arts Alive Festival director 1994 - 2000 and curator 2015 -

“Arts Alive  International Festival, features artistic offerings that will entertain , educate and stimulate cultural tastes, from Jazz on the Lake launching the Festival in a celebration of spring, to events at the Johannesburg Theatre, Soweto , Alexander to various regions in Johannesburg,” says festival curator Roshnie Moonsammy.

Interview Catz Pyjamas August 27 th 2014

A festival that goes out to tender is not viable. I think even the people who get the tender will tell you after they are still establishing themselves, then the tender is over, And then all the gains made are lost. When we ran Arts Alive, it wasn't a tender process. You were employed and you did it. And I don't think anywhere in the world, that I know of, has there been a successful city festival based on a tender process. Tender processes are used for various departmental needs from the South African government side, and certainly not from a festival perspective. You have to select people who are knowledgeable who develop the institutional capital for training and for me that is what we did with Arts Alive basically from 1993 to 2000. You have to employ people, you have to train people, you have to create jobs, you have to have an on going process of artistic curatorship, ownership and relationship with the sponsors and all those things take ages to build. Government can give you your money for three years but how do you get sponsors if you are not going to be there. You must start the process over. Your relationships are no longer valid. People come in and they must make new relationships; so I think fundamentally it is a floored structure. I think it is an important festival, even though sometimes it is not seen as a fully-fledged arts festival. Artists need work and we need events in the city, so however you see it, it is important. Even the people who get the tender will agree, as soon as you are ready to face the next three years, your tender is over.

Ideally I think the City should create a Section 21 Non Profit company as a city project, give it money and make sure there is a high level of training, handing down of skills and not benefitting the few individuals only, financially and otherwise. Have people training others so you can develop the institutional capital and the relationship with sponsors.

Were you the first director of Arts Alive?

No, I was on the team. Christopher Tell was the first director. Arts Alive started in 1992 but it was very small. I worked from 1993, I did the theatre and community programming and then I went on to manage the entire festival from 1995. I raised the sponsorship. I know the challenges, so the model I am talking about is the model that any festivals of international caliber, success and magnitude are based on. It is not rocket science. Structurally it is a problem; you cannot grow it because you are changing people all the time.

Is this the only tender run festival?

There are others in the South African context. It is not an international context. There is a trust that festivals have and a company and an organization. They select directors and curators of the festival. Festival directors change, the core remains. The financial organization remains. The investment remains. It grows, but there is ongoing leadership that is continuous unlike the tender process.

The Arts Alive archives, are they available?

That was done with the late arts and culture director, Mr Victor Modise who tragically died in a car accident. He gave permission for it to be housed at Wits. It is just video footage. That is the only central archive for the material. After 2000 I don't know if there is any central keeping of material because obviously the tender process changes. I am ignorant of what has happened, but he has insured that it is kept at historical papers. Only the video footage remains of the event. It is on Betacam and video. Members of the public cannot view footage on Betacam as it can be damaged. The edited copies are on video and it is a simple process to put onto CD. It is nothing major to do if they want to do it. It is up to the City. And what are they doing with all the footage after 2000 and how centrally located is it? I don't know.

Would you go for the tender?

I don't think so, because I think these days you get it in who you know. I would like to be involved in a process where it is owned by the City, it is a Section 21, It has got a budget that is sustainable. Infrastructure that is sustainable. I would like to work on the training of people to run events and to run festivals because there is not enough of that. That is where I would see more my role.

I do a lot of things like that. I am working with prisoners, female inmates. It is all about the training and empowering process. For me, running an event, I would see it as empowering more people to train, to get the work, to do a great festival, to encourage new blood and basically professionalism instead of this mediocrity. Essentially there is no artistic programming. There are very few who actually call themselves artistic programmers. They are event coordinators, so we kind of loosely use the term in South Africa.

There are a lot of events that happen over the period of the festival. Are they all under the banner of Arts Alive?

Sometimes to many events for one month is too much, so it is good that you spread the activity. And then you find in winter there is so little happening, so to go out you must choose good venues and warm venues. People will go out if the stuff is good and what you do is artistically good. I think it doesn't have to all be clubbed together and I think a festival has to have an identity. I think sometimes government officials think that an artistic event is one that has to satisfy everyone's needs. And then a festival looses an identity and a focus. You find in Europe and America and various other countries there is a core of what the event is about. You can't have a whole lot of fringe events and then you call it a festival. Even from a marketing perspective it becomes very cumbersome. You have to have a focus. I think that whatever events being held is great because there is not as much, there is less money for all these things. And there is less political and artistic will to put together cutting edge events, events that really push you artistically and are well created. There is a need for that. And also a need to see artists we don't see. We see artists coming out for big concerts like Carlos Santana and who-ever but there are also the other middle range artists who really make an impact but we don't get to see them.

How did you develop such a strong Pan African network?

Incidentally I ran the biggest Wits University workshop open day. That was during the period of major worker cultural groups in 1990 and it is also when the release of Nelson Mandela and political prisoners was announced. We had Ahmad Kathrada come and talk on the University steps. Mzwakhe Mbuli, Johnny Clegg, Sipho Mchunu, it was a whole range of artists. Vusi Mahlasela was just starting out.

While I did that I also worked for International public trade union secretariat based in Geneva, for public sector unions, so I dealt with a lot of African unions around the continent and in the diaspora. So, that gave me my travels. I was very young then, I was 22. I was travelling alone, in African and Europe and that introduced me to different music and so on.

Do you think such a Pan African programming can return?

It can return. People are always desperate for good music, diaspora music, South American, Caribbean, afrobeat. Those things are great. In fact I am busy trying to get someone to screen the Fela Kuti documentary, “Finding Fela,” which has opened in the US and is opening in Lagos in October. There are so many things one can do and that has always been my interest. I have been involved in different multi-spheres, from a political, social and cultural perspective.

I also work with Rhodessa Jones on the prison project. She is from San Francisco. She is a very well known lady working with prisons throughout the world. She is also the sister of the famous choreographer, Bill T Jones, the artistic director for the Fela on Broadway show. All these things are added to your concept of what we need here.

How about Urban Voices, how is that going?

It is still going. I have not done the poetry and the music for about three years now. I am dong literature. And I am working with the Department of Arts and Culture, not necessarily as Urban Voices but in my personal capacity with the African Women Writers series. I was very pleased and truly privileged to work on the 2011 program where we honored Nadime Gordimer at Wits University and we had Nawal El Saadawi from Egypt and various Algerian and Libian writers come out including African and African diaspora writers. For me that was very enriching and I hope to continue with that kind of work with the department and other people. My focus is on training and also largely on literature and reading for young people, to make a difference.

Are you a writer?

Unfortunately not, I work with writers, I co ordinate writing programs. I am working currently with the Sharpeville foundation and the Emfuleni local government. We have a group of female parolees that are working on the prison project I do, ‘Serious Fun' at Sun City. There are ten women who are parolees and we are working together with them. I was rehearsing with them last week. We are going to be performing to young school kids and members of the public in Emfuleni in the Vaal area. These are parolees that come together: some of them are working and some of them are struggling. They are telling their stories, telling their experiences. These days prisons are not something for the others. Anybody can find himself or herself by a stroke of bad luck in a prison, challenging a corrupt official or anything you can find yourself on the other end.

When I did Arts Alive I used to go into prisons with poets and the female and male and even maximum security in Pretoria. I went with Linton Kwesi Johnson, the late Jayne Cortez the jazz poet from New York. I used to go in with Lesego Rampolokeng and everyone would go in and do poetry workshops. With Urban Voices I continued that program. I was then invited to an African Women's literature and writers' conference at New York University in 2004. I saw this show; Rhodessa Jones doing her one woman show, "Big But Girls Hard headed Women." There were lots of people from the African Society, former Black Panther Movement talking about the incarceration of young black men in prisons in the US and the private prison system, which is dreadful. We have one in Bloemfontein and it is the worst run prison. Our State run prisons, have to go in and assist because of the bad running of the prison and security. There is mistreatment of prisoners. That model is very problematic, even if we are trying to imitate the US model. I saw the play and then I invited her and then I became a fully-fledged service provider for the prisons. We were working using theatre as a means of emancipation. Looking at inmates and looking at their lives before incarceration and after, how do they see it? But, I have largely worked with female inmates. I have worked since 2005, every year doing work until now.

The fact that some of them are parolees, going out to rehearse the play, going to talk shows and workshops with young people at schools, because people have a glamorized idea of crime and also have a very warped sense of what an offender is. An offender can be your mother, your father, or your aunt. Almost every family has an offender. Nobody wants to tell you that.

When I was growing up, I used to cry tears but now I laugh about it and cry about it. My dad used to tell me I had really bad criminals in my family. On my mothers' side, my granny's sister had kids that were very entrepreneurial in Alexandria Township. They had taxis, butchers and what not. One was part of a gang called the Msomi gang and he was one of the first people to hang during the sixties. So, as a child, as a four year old, I used to always hear about it. You never know when you trace your history!

Is there rehabilitation in the system?

I see it in the women's system. If you go to the female system it is very different to the male system; same grounds, different buildings. Joburg Female Correctional Services is the biggest correctional center for female offenders. It is about 1300. It has very good facilities for babies under two because they are allowed to stay with their mothers. There are issues; such as, are people learning enough skills to empower themselves, so when they leave the correctional institute they will be able to fend for themselves. Those are issues where they need help. Of course the church is very active but the church is not going to put food on the table, so how do you do that. Spiritual wellbeing is important but you also need other hard and soft skills. Your confidence issues, and that is what the theatre program tries to do?

Are there people wrongly incarcerated?

Ah Struan, everyone in prison says they are innocent, so I don't know! Ha Ha … Even after ten years there they claim they are innocent. It is a worldwide thing. But, that is part of the theatre program. It is a theatre of emancipation. It is a realizing and taking ownership of what you have done. You can't succeed if you are not true to yourself or confront what you have done, whatever circumstances have made you. Also women who have been incarcerated have been abused. It is amazing. Across the color, across the class, there is some form of emotional and sexual abuse, either from a teenager. It is a very interesting phenomenon and speaking to Rhodessa it is a phenomenon in other parts of the world.

How does the SA Arts exchange fit in?

It is an umbrella body. I hire in people when we have to do the work. Our work runs the Urban Voices brand. It will be the Urban Voices brand when I run the parolee program. I usually work with inmates. This is a completely separate program with parolees. I have come in to assist and take them to the Emfuleni carnival.

What about your involvement with Carnegie Hall?

That was separate. I was asked to assist with contacts and meeting artists. It was a very nice experience. I will be going to the festival. At this very venue Catz Pyjamas we did the showcase. We had the likes of Sibongile Khumalo, Phuzekhemisi to Wouter Kellerman. It was a range of artists the night we did it. I am very pleased that Carnegie has even taken the Cape Malay choir to New York. The festival runs from September to October to the first week in November. It is the first time the Malay Choir is going to New York. There are a lot of classical audiences that come to Carnegie Hall. Audiences like new things. There are interesting things if you go to the Carnegie Hall website and uBuntu festival, including Angelique Kidjo who is doing a tribute to Miriam Makeba. There is also a guitar program and even young jazz musicians Kyle Shepherd, Kesivan Naidoo. For every young artist, it is their dream to perform at Carnegie Hall. It is really great that Carnegie got this program together.

Lesley Hudson festival director, Arts Alive since 2012 said at the launch of Arts Alive 2014,

“It is an interesting experience running a festival like Arts Alive as it is totally city sponsored. The majority of funding comes from the city of Johannesburg. The city of Johannesburg are in effect our clients so I have to work very closely with the city of Johannesburg and the department called ‘Community development.' As you know in any sphere of government, local, provincial and national, there is always the political arm and the administrative arm. That makes it kind of a challenge as you are reporting both to the politician and the administration. In essence when you are getting sign off and feedback you are getting it from administration but also from the political arm which makes it quite challenging. That is a dynamic that is quite unusual in this festival in that you are reporting to those two sides but very rewarding in that you know you are contributing to a bigger vision, not just administratively but politically as well. The festival is seen as part of a bigger political agenda. “

The Johannesburg Theatre hosted a short documentary of some of the highlights (particularly African music) of the last 21 years of Arts Alive. It provided a nostalgic, dynamic and dramatic journey through Joburg as an African city that loves African music. The archive of recorded material that is available to the Arts Alive festival is a very important body of performances of many legendary musicians and their bands who performed in Johannesburg. For many people (self included) seeing these musicians was a once in a lifetime experience.

The documentary also provided a relaxed conversation between Lesley Hudson and Roshnie Moonsammy. Roshnie was festival director during a golden era of South African arts and culture (1999 and 2000). At the time, Arts Alive presented a plethora of African Music of the highest quality and was a stalwart African Music festival on a par with the great festivals of the continent during that era - Awesome Africa (KZN), MASA (Ivory Coast) and FESPAM (Congo Brazzaville).

Arts Alive festival started in 1992, it was a fore-runner to the peaceful transformation the country took. It is a democratic festival that covers all genres - dance , theatre , music , poetry , comedy and visual arts.

Lesley Hudson said,

“To pull off a festival like this you have to have what I call ‘genre heads.' So we have different people who run the music; theatre; dance. You have to interact with those people and make sure you coordinate all of that in a way that is satisfying audiences but is also satisfying the needs of the administrators and politicians.”

“It is a very Joburg festival. It embodies the essence of Joburg which is vibrance, cosmopolitan, diverse, evocative, all of those sorts of things. And the fact that we have to coordinate events in all of the seven administrative regions of the city makes it very embedded in the city and gives it a very organic flavor so that it is very much about the people of Joburg and responding to their needs rather than just a couple of elite people.”

In the big city of Johannesburg everybody gets a chance to prove themselves. Lesley Hudson responded,

“I guess that is kind of the democracy of the festival in that the administration changes so that everybody literally does get a chance to run the festival but because it is a multi genre festival and we have something like 43 events over the ten days, lots of people have the opportunity to perform on the festival or work on the festival. It is very dynamic and democratic.”

Of the future of the Arts Alive festival Lesley said, “The city will put it out to tender, companies will bid and the tender will be awarded. I am an optimistic so I think the festival has a good future but really it depends on who will take the reins next time. “

Digital Art is a new emerging trend in South Africa

Tegan Bristow  said,

My work with many of the artists, writers, AR & VR specialists with the Centre for the Less Good Idea has been more innovative than alot of the work I have done in the last few years. The platform itself is challenging and wildly collaborative - making pushing boundaries that much more accessible. This type of innovation on what can be made with digital technologies and how it can be presented to a participant audience is not something that happens easily within the corporate environment. I do truly believe that the role of culture and creativity in technology development in Africa cannot be over looked. 

Bushveld Labs in Riot have collaborated with us alot over the past few years, they are genius mechatronic engineers that always bring a level of technical expertise along with a really creative view on the subject. Unfortunately Riot has really taken over their time, but they are playing our training the google AI with images that can only be found locally do develop into a scripted visual narrative. 

Our most successful tech and art collaboration from the Centre has been with Alt Reality (Rick Treweek and Garrett Steele) together with Dondoo and William Kentridge in the development of what is being called the Invisible Exhibition which is showcasing in completely new ways, work that has been made by more than 20 South African artists in full 3D space in Tilt Brush. 

Digital Art may not be hung, looked and collected the same way that painting is, but it does have the same value even though it is handled differently. Digital Art is also a very important location in which true interrogation and criticisms - both as medium and content - can be levelled at the globalised information economy and our technological futures - much more so than painting or sculpture ever can. 

Currently we are looking at an average of between 4 to 4 and a half thousand audience and participants a year, this does not include facilitators and organisers. We have not done our social media count for 2017, which grew considerably but last year we were looking at 812 000 impressions and 20 000 profile visits.

Tshimologong and what it offers the university as an outside location that focus on technology and innovation will always be a base and pivoting point for us. Based on this year’s numbers and the dramatic growth in interest the building of Tshimologong may not be able to fully contain the festival anymore - but we would like to see it remain in and around Braamfontein and the inner city. There is an important audience of young people here that are central to our access objectives.

From a University perspective, we feel that since last year the festival really does stand alone to serve communities outside of Wits and we really want to see this continue. Outside of a general public engagement, we have also started working with UJ initiatives this and and reached out to many of the private design, animation and creative technology education institutions in 2017. 

We started Fak’ugesi in partnership with Tshimologong before the Tshimologong building had even started. In fact our first Fak’ugesi ran in part from the building in its state as a dance club and was ridiculously risky from a health and safety perspective, but we still had alot of fun. 

The aims of the Festival in focusing on bringing African cultures, creativity and technology had certainly been reflected in some of the Tshimologong developments over the last year - particularly the Maxum Incubator focusing on Animation, Gaming and VR. Additionally Fak’ugesi continues to work with the Making community in Gauteng and South Africa and there is a required focus for this within the precinct outside of its skills development and incubation programs.

Fak’ugesi is specifically a festival that interrogated the role of culture and creativity in innovation, particularly regional technology innovation. We annually interrogate this as a question - asking how the tech and innovation scene acts to recognise and celebrate regional African culture and creativity. This is an important question and one that we believe cannot be separated from innovation if it is to be done properly. With the of course we invite a lot of creative practitioners in the digital and digital making fields to not only make new interrogative work, but lead workshops and projects that inspire, develop access to technology skills and celebrate collaboration and creativity for technology innovation. 

Keynote speaker William Kentridge said

I am going to answer that primarily in relation to the studio. And I am thinking of the studio both as a physical and a metaphorical space. The physical space in which as an artist I work.
Even though we talk about the intangible, the digital – things that happen when you sit crunched up, knees tight in front of the computer. Essentially the activity of art making is an embodied form of thinking. It uses the movement of the body, what its extension is and how it works. To talk about what actually happens with the relationship between movement and thinking.

You can start making a drawing and it is the whole body that is the gesture. Or you can start making a drawing and it is the extension from the shoulder, from access of the elbow and smaller with your wrist or really tight and fie just with your knuckles.

Even if the work is done by the mouse or your keypad there is an extension which is a much larger physical movement.
The studio is kind of an expanded skull. There is a sense of walking around the studio and seeing yesterday’s work, email up on the wall. A Photostat all the things that one surrounds oneself with around the studio – all the thoughts are sitting in the brain. The studio works also as a place in which the word is invited in and comes in all these concrete and intangible forms. Concrete in terms of images, newspaper articles, out of Photostats sitting on the desk, out of the books that are sitting on the shelf, but also out of a memory of last night’s dream, a memory of the phone call you have to make during the day. What someone else has said … the news that is coming up. The world comes to you in this form and then the artists’ job is to take this fragmented world and re arrange it, to cut it up and shift things. And having rearranged the world send it back out to the world either as a drawing or a film, piece of theatre. What always happens in the studio is this tumble dryer re-shifting remaking. It is the pages that are rewritten, crossed through and redrawn.

For me, this studio is both the physical space of making which is emblematic of the way in which we make sense of the word; even if you are not an artist sitting in the studio making collage. Your life is nonetheless made up of all the different fragments that come into you from which everyday we have somehow to construct the self we send out into the world. There is a sense that the processes we take for granted in our lives are very evident in the studio. 
One of the primary art making forms in all media of the 20th and 21st century is that of collage. Of taking fragments and making some form of coherence or possible coherence. This is an old technique. The great masters would have sketch books of the drawing of their models in different poses. Doing a grand religious or historical painting they would take those fragments and construct a coherent image. Landscape painters would have details of trees they had drawn in different places but they would invent a landscape of putting these different fragments together.   
We have to accept that it is not only the world that is fragmented. It is ourselves as artists as emblematic exaggerations of the way we all operate in the world. What is taken for granted in the studio is hidden in daily life. For example the splitting of the self into more than one persona, which is a kind of illness becomes a common practice in the studio.
In the studio there is a sheet of paper waiting for the drawing to begin and there is a confrontation with it. Very soon you step back and another self enters the studio and it is yourself as observer. You have self as maker and other self as observer. And he is not satisfied.    
We have this sense of the studio as a space for the multiplication of the self, allowing other things to take its place. It becomes a safe space for stupidity. People never understand enough how much stupidity is a central part of the creative process. That is why sometimes people that are naturally in the thinking professions, academics and writers of theoretical books – find it really hard to make the transition into doing creative work because the mind is set in a rational way of thinking and they don’t provide enough space for a kind of blindness that is needed. In psychoanalytic terms, Freud described the space between the psychoanalyst and the patient as “tummelplatz” the space for the conflict or tumbling playing where anything was allowed to happen. In psychoanalytic terms it was the space for free association. You could say whatever came into your mind because maybe it will lead you to things you can’t access directly. And in the same way in the studio to say let the impulse and the whim have the benefit of the doubt because maybe something will come out that is interesting and you will recognise it rather than knowing it in advance. Having a space for surprise and uncertainty and doubt are good because they allow a gap. If everything is too certain and everything is known and every half thought idea gets pushed aside.
About a year ago we formed in the East Side of the City a small centre called the Centre for the Less Good Idea and the participants in the panel discussion that will follow this are creators working on the second season of the Centre for the Less Good Idea. What the Centre is doing is trying to make this “tummelplatz” this space of experimentation and division and fragmentation of the world and bringing it together. Working with artists musicians dancers and technology to see what is the energy generated by the very fragmentation of vision that happens in the space. The name comes from a Tswana proverb – “if the good doctor can’t cure you find the less good doctor.”  
This is when the grand ideas of the world don’t hold and are not enough find ideas at the periphery. Very often when you start a project you have a good idea. And then it calls your bluff. You have to do the work. And when the work begins the clarity and brilliance of the good idea starts to waver and you see the gaps in the logic. What have to save you are all the things that come in at the edges. Things you hadn’t anticipated before. If you are working with musicians and actors it is the gaps in the rehearsal when actors are sitting notes that the musicians are making. And suddenly recognise a spark of energy towards a meaning which one can’t quite grasp. This becomes the basis for the way in which the ideas on the periphery rescue the centre. That is always the case. Same with peripheral vision – things you notice t the edge of your sight when you are focusing on something else. And then bring you back to it.  
In the centre we work on two seasons a year and different curators are invited to the centre to invite artists performers dancers – in the first season boxers – that they know to be the performers and participants in each season. We have some months of preparation and a few days of showing the work in a four day festival in different spaces.
The first season became about language. What is the edge of language? Talking about what are the limits of a rational discursive literal thinking, what are other ways we can make meaning. What are the ways the voice and words can shift and change? There were 19 performances in the first season and they have to do with language and the edges of voice.   
A fragment of Not I by Samuel Becket performance by Patricia Bouyer.

Thulani Chauke,‘the body as purely expressive,’ turned the studio and space of the centre into a boxing ring with many performances including theatre. This became about the performance and their magnification of shadows.  The blind mass orchestra of Joao Orecchio and instead of notes the musicians were given written instructions to follow.
You get a sense of the absolutely physical meeting with the absolutely immaterial in the form of digital and to see what happens. The first season was seeing what were the edges of one kind of logic and the end of language. In the time of the First World War the Dadaists said that logic which is ruled the world and brought us to the first world war is broken we need to find a different logic. Language that has described the world up to now has become inadequate to the task. We have to show the inadequacy of language and one of the ways of doing is by working against language working with text that makes no sense. I will finish with the Oerstinater of Kushfieters the great dadist artists and poet content portal : quote the source © 2013 Struan Douglas of AFRIBEAT.COM
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