Mandla Mlangeni – Oratorio Of A Forgotten Youth at Artscape Cape Town

Last week I attended an Artscape performance that was unexpected. The musical “Reflection of A Forgotten Youth” focusing on South African youth in 1976 was nothing like I imagined.

Mandla Mlangeni Trumpeter – news.uct.ac.za

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“April 16, 2019 is the 43rd anniversary of the “historic June 16, 1976 uprisings that changed the course of South African history.”

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Mandla Mbothwe Writer, Director, Teacher, Curator, Artist, Lecturer – UCT

South Africa Youth Day

June 16, 1976 “marked the beginning of the Soweto Uprising, a series of protests that escalated quickly around the country, especially in Cape Town”. South Africa celebrates Youth Day every 16 June. It’s a day the country “reflects on the massacre of school children during the Soweto Uprising of 1976“.

Artscape Creative Director Mandla Mbothwe inspired the production “invoking the spirit of forgotten youth”. Trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni performs with the Gugulethu Voices Choir, Cape Town Philharmonic, Amandla Freedom Ensemble, and poet Koleka Putuma. Mlangeni is Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz 2019 and the Center for Humanities Research (CHR) Artist in Residence.

Afrika Mkhize Pianist, Music Producer, Arranger, Composer, Artist – artSMart

Jazz, Classical, and Indigenous Music

The musical performance combined jazz, classical, and indigenous music performed by a cast of accomplished artists including Ariel Zamonsky, Afrika Mkhize, Lesego Rampolokeng, Mark Fransman, Thembi Mtshali-Jones, and more.

Lesego Rampoloken Writer, Playwright, Poet – Wikipedia

Amandla Freedom Ensemble with Mandla Mbothwe and Cape Town Philharmonic – amandlafreedom.com

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“Oratorio Of A Forgotten Youth harnesses choral traditions that define struggles against apartheid with contemporary musical forms.” 

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Cape Town Philharmonic CEO Louis Heyneman – YouTube

According to Cape Town Philharmonic CEO Louis Heyneman, the collaboration “debunks the myth that classically trained musicians are stuck in a formal mold and not adaptable to other genres”. He adds, “We are an orchestra for all seasons, and bringing seemingly opposing musical forms together is part of who we are”.

It was a memorable evening and a fitting, heartfelt remembrance.

Gugulethu Voices Choir – News24

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art Cape Town

Zeitz Museum – timeslive.co.za Photo Iwan Baan

During this travel adventure I’ve explored museums and galleries in different European countries, but South Africa’s Zeitz Museum always remained near the top of my list. I missed it in the past and made a point of popping in last week. The first and third floors are closed for renovation and will reopen in August. I still saw plenty of incredible art and discovered interesting artists!

MOCAA at Dusk – Heatherwick Studio Photo Iwan Baan

History

Completed in 2017, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) is a masterful creation by British architect Thomas Heatherwick. He converted a “century-old grain silo and historical landmark at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront into a world-class art gallery”! The privately-funded Zeitz is not only the largest art museum in Africa but also the largest exhibition in the world “showcasing the art of Africa and its diaspora”.

Thomas Heatherwick Architect – MoneyWeek.com

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“British architect Thomas Heatherwick was inspired to create an art institution on a continent as big as the whole of Europe and North America combined.”

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Jochen Zeitz Collector of African Contemporary Art – Deutschland.de

The goal was creating a space for bringing together works by African artists and “invigorating interest in African contemporary art”. MOCAA does the opposite of what the old grain silo did.

Koyo Kouoh MOCAA Director and Chief Curator – Zeitz MOCAA

“At the same time the V&A Waterfront was wondering how to develop its iconic grain silo, African contemporary art collector and German businessman, Jochen Zeitz, was looking for a museum to house his extensive collection.”

Zeitz Museum Atrium from Tunnel – timeslive.co.za Photo Iwan Baan

Purpose and Design

The Zeitz Museum is dedicated to “researching, collecting, and exhibiting art from the African continent and beyond”. The exhibition space covers almost 65,000 sq. ft. on nine floors, with 100 gallery spaces.

Zeitz Museum Atrium Vault – timeslive.co.za Photo Iwan Baan

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During the old days, “grain was exported outwards from the silo. The MOCAA creates a place where African art can return and from where it will not leak away.”

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Zeitz Museum Interstitial Space – timeslive.co.za Photo Iwan Baan

The interior is carved out in the shape of an enlarged grain of corn resulting in a “series of curved concrete lines with light pouring through the cylindrical silos!” The design provides a vivid “cross-section view of the inner workings of the old industrial structure”.

Zeitz Museum Atrium – timeslive.co.za Photo Iwan Baan

Curator

Executive Director, Chief Curator, Koyo Kouoh, has 20 years’ of international experience. A native of Dakar Senegal, she’s developed art programs and curated contemporary African art in London and New York.

MOCAA Stairway

Artists

I’m in awe of the many extraordinarily talented, award-winning artists featured at the MOCAA. It’s slightly intimidating, and I’m still educating myself about African artists like Frances Goodman, Kendell Geers, William Kentridge, and Nicholas Hlobo. The works of a few favorites are detailed in this post:

  • El Anatsui – Ghana
  • Sory Sanlé – Burkina Faso
  • Sue Williamson – UK and South Africa
  • Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum – Botswana
  • Mary Sibande – South Africa
  • Joana Choumali – Abidjan Côte d’Ivoire
  • Neo Matloga – South Africa

El Anatsui – Art Basel

El Anatsui

El Anatsui was born in Ghana and lived in Nigeria. His career spams forty years as both sculptor and Professor of Sculpture at the University of Nigeria.

El Anatsui When I Last Wrote to You About Africa

He’s known for repurposing alcohol bottle caps into large-scale hanging installations. El Anatsui creates art weaves from an accumulation of discarded production, trade, and consumption materials associated with colonial expansion in Africa.

El Anatsui Testimonial Aluminum and Copper Wire Brooklyn Museum – artefuse.com

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El Anatsui “breaks from the traditional cast of sculptural practice invoking a multi-layered, sensory re-imagining of our material world”. He’s “accomplished one of the few genuine breakthroughs in contemporary art anywhere in the world today.”

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El Anatsui TSIATSIA Searching for Connections – ruthball.weebly.com

His sculptures appear in the British Museum London, Centre Pompidou Paris, de Young San Francisco, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art New York, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Osaka Foundation of Culture, and Tate Modern London.

El Anatsui – Pinterest

El Anatsui has many solo exhibitions and received awards and recognition all over the world. Some of his best-known works include:

Sory Sanlé Burkina Faso

Sory Sanlé

Sory Sanlé is a Burkinabe photographer and owner off Volta Photo Studio. He lives and works in Bobo-Dioulasso Burkina Faso.

Sory Sanlé Burkina Faso

Sanlé’s career began in 1960, the same year Burkina Faso won its independence from France. He’s known for documenting Bobo-Dioulasso’s “fast evolution” and capturing the “frontal collision between modern life and centuries-old traditions from Burkina Faso’s culturally rich rural regions”.

Mrlifeisrich Sory Sanlé – Pinterest

Sanlé portrays Bobo-Dioulasso’s people with “wit, energy, and sheer passion”. His background paintings, be they a modern city, beach walk board, airplane, or antique column, are outstanding.

Sory Sanlé Burkina Faso

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“Sory Sanlé’s subjects illustrate the remoteness and melancholy of African cities landlocked deep in the heart of the continent and the natural fusion operating between tradition and modernity.”

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Sue Williamson A Few South AfricansWinnie Mandela

Sue Williamson

Sue Williamson was born in England but her family immigrated to South Africa when she was seven. She studied art in New York and in 1983, was awarded a Diploma in Fine Art from the Michaelis School of Fine Art, University of Cape Town.

Sue Williamson “Message from the Atlantic Passage” Basel, Switzerland. (Photo The Image Gate)

Williamson is both a journalist and printmaker who works “predominantly in installation, photographic images, and video”. Her work addresses social issues “pertaining to civil activism, citizenry, senses of community, or aspects of contemporary history as told from the perspective of individuals”.

Sue Williamson A Few South Africans – Miriam Makeba

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“I think early work in newspapers was formative in my art because of that sort of interest in people’s exact words and precise narratives.” Sue Williamson

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Sue Williamson A Few South AfricansLilian Ngoyi

In the 1980s, she created a series of “photo-etchings and screen print portraits that foreground the importance of women in South Africa’s political struggle”. In her work, Williamson emphasizes the “importance of revisiting history as a way of understanding a nation’s present”.

Sue Williamson A Few South Africans – Virginia Mngoma

A Few South Africans (1983-85) is a visual narrative attempt to fill the representational absence of people and events during Apartheid. It gives a tangible, iconic visibility to female leaders and women of courage who were active in the fight against Apartheid – Elizabeth Paul, Maggie Magaba, Winnie Mandela, Lilian Ngoyi, Annie Silinga, Helen Joseph, Nokukhanya Luthuli, Albertina Sisulu, Amina Cachalia, Caroline Motsoaledi, Virginia Mngoma, Charlotte Maxeke, and others.”

Sue Williamson A Few South AfricansAmina Cachalia

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“We’re in the process of coming to terms with the past. I think that, before we can move on, we have to reach a point where we can find our way to a solution and say: OK, we’ve confronted our past as intensively as possible.” Sue Williamson

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Sue Williamson A Few South AfricansAnnie Silinga

Some of Sue Williamson’s most powerful and best-known works include:

Sue Williamson A Few South AfricansCaroline Motsoaledi

Internationally recognized, Williamson has active art exhibitions in South Africa and around the world. She served as Chairperson of the Visual Arts Group, founding member of the arts organization Public Eye, and founding editor of Artthrob, a website on contemporary art in South Africa.

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum All My Seven Faces  – omenkaonline.com

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum

Born in Botswana, Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum grew up in Canada, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Malawi, and South Africa. She attended the Baltimore Institute College of Art and University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Her solo exhibitions have appeared in the US, South Africa, and UK.

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum

Sunstrum’s work “features black and brown people posed against contrived, hand-painted landscape backdrops”. Her landscapes “expand on themes of timelessness” where she “reconstructs sites both real and imagined to reveal the small scale of individuals within the vast universe”. Her beautiful, complex work is fascinating!

Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum’s exhibitions include:

Let Me Show You My Ship – Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum

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Themes in Sunstrum’s exhibitions explore “mythologies and theories of the creation of the universe” and the “co-reliant relationship between science and mythology”.

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Mary Sibande – In the Midst of Chaos There is Opportunity

Mary Sibande

Mary Sibande – sculptor, photographer, and visual artist – is based in Johannesburg. She was educated in Fine Arts at Witwatersrand Technikon and received a Bachelor of Technology from the University of Johannesburg. “Fascinated with fashion and fabric” Sibande focuses on “questions of the body and how to reclaim the black female body in post-colonial, post-apartheid South Africa”.

Sibande “draws inspiration from her experiences growing up in South Africa”. Her “focus on the maid is cited as homage to her family, of which four generations of women served as domestic workers”.

Mary Sibande Long Live the Dead Queen – ruxandrabp.wordpress.com

Sibande works through Sophie, an “alter-ego and sculptural figure who traverses the uncanny valleys of liminal space”. Sophie is a symbolic figure speaking for “femininity, blackness, labour, post-coloniality, and communities on the margin as a whole”.

MOCAA Silos – Icon Magazine

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“My work is not complaining about Apartheid or an invitation to feel sorry for me because I’m black and my mother was a maid. It’s about celebrating what we are as women in South Africa today. For us to celebrate, we need to go back to see what we are celebrating. To celebrate, I needed to bring this maid.” Mary Sibande

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Sibande’s works include:

Mary Sibande Purple Shall Govern – MAC VAL Musée d’Art Contemporai

Sibande has received awards and appeared at expositions and festivals throughout Africa and the world. She is a research fellow at numerous institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution, University of Michigan, and Ampersand Foundation. She’s involved with ActionAid South Africa and the Young Urban Women Programme raising funds and introducing art to girls in low-income communities.

Mary Sibande A Crescendo of Ecstasy – timeslive.co.za Alon Skuy

Sibande’s spectacular exhibit at the Zeitz MOCAA – In the Midst of Chaos There is Opportunity – depicts “women in combat, modelled on the artist’s mother, a domestic worker in South Africa, seen amongst blood-red canines and vultures”.

Joana Choumali Alba’hian

Joana Choumali 

Based in Abidjan Côte d’Ivoire, freelance photographer Joana Choumali studied graphic arts in Casablanca and was an art director. Her creations exhibit subtle figures that “highlight the equal humanity of men and women”.

Joana Choumali Alba’hian

Choumali’s style includes conceptual portraiture, mixed media, and documentary. She “focuses on Africa, her assumptions about the diversity of cultures, and her expanding conceptions of the world”.

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“Joana Choumali uses photography to explore issues of identity and the diversity of African cultures.”

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Joana Choumali Resilients

Joana Choumali Resilients

Joana Choumali Resilients

Joana Choumali Resilients

Joana Choumali’s best-known exhibitions include:

Joana Choumali Hââbré, The Last Generation

Resilients documents young, professional African women who “struggle with connecting to their family’s traditional past”. To emphasize the link between past and present, the women were photographed wearing traditional clothing worn by their grandmothers or older female relatives. Hââbré,The Last Generation is about facial scarification across the Ivory Coast, a practice that is dying out,

Neo Matloga – Tyburn Gallery

Neo Matloga

Born in Limpopo in 1993, Neo Matloga studied at the University of Johannesburg. His work is exhibited locally and internationally and on display at the City of Ekurhuleni, the South African Embassy in Washington DC, and in private collections. Matloga lives in Amsterdam, where he’s an “artist at De Ateliers, a post-academic institution”.

Neo Matloga Khwela Jive-e-Binwa-Bjang -neomatloga.com

“Influenced by his father’s quote, “art should heal psychologically,” and the energy projected by South African youth, Matloga rejects limiting himself to specific artistic mediums. His paintings, drawings, and collages are versatile. They explore the Post-Mandela era and “mythic power of Sophiatown, an area outside Johannesburg”.

Neo Matloga

Matloga creates a nostalgic feeling by “collaging objects and materials that reference domestic households”. He produces “fragments of incredible happiness from his upbringing, conversations, and the poetic moments he remembers growing up in a Post-Mandela era.” The “main themes in his work center around his passion for black people feeling that there is an ability to belong and exist”.

Neo Matloga

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“As the legacy of apartheid persists, with no doubt there were and still are social issues such as crime and moral degradation, but none of this determines the concept of life in its entirety.”

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Neo Matloga Molatelo

Neo Matloga’s black and white paintings reflect “domestic life in South Africa’s black households” – with a kick. Titles appear in Sepedi, his mother tongue, spoken in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo provinces. His “cast of characters play out every-day dramas, experiencing the struggles and consolations of desire and intimacy”.

Neo Matloga Hugh Masekela – robynsassenmyview.com

“The people in Matloga’s paintings are ‘moral agents’ affected by the socio-economic and political conditions that shape life outside and inside the four walls of their homes.” His characters have “outsized eyes, mouths, and ears, skin tone with abrupt changes, hairstyles and hats sitting atop the wrong heads, and comically misplaced accessories”.

Neo Matloga

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Matloga’s characters are described as “hybrids”. He forms their faces by “collaging together photographic images of friends, family, and famous figures from politics and the arts”.

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Neo Matloga Molatelo

Matloga uses the process of “cutting, reconfiguring, and collaging facial anatomy” for political purposes and to “identify with the racist gaze”. I had to do research on Matloga’s work to better understand it.

Neo Matloga’s solo shows and presentations include:

Cape Town Philharmonic Winter Season Premier

Cape Town City Hall – Culture Trip

Last night Cape Town Philharmonic 2019 Winter Season premiered at City Hall. The musicians did not disappoint! I reserved a seat in the upper bays – a great location for watching the orchestra in action. Over the years, I’ve seen them perform from just about every vantage point in the Concert Hall. One memory is sitting in the high balcony during a heavy storm listening to the sound of raindrops on the glass dome, as the orchestra performed below.

Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra City Hall – wikipedia.org

Robert Moody, American guest conductor, made his Cape Town debut last night. Moody is Music Director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the Arizona Musicfest.

The program included three captivating compositions:

Robert Moody Conductor – memphissymphony.org

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“Samuel Barber had the gift of writing sustained melodies that flow easily and have a high degree of expressiveness.”

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Robert Moody Conductor

In addition to Robert Moody’s positions with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and the Arizona Musicfest, he’s been associate conductor, resident conductor, and music director of symphony orchestras all over the world. Moody is “equally at home in the opera pit, with pops, and at chamber music and choral concerts”. His intense interaction – conducting without a baton – with the orchestra was impressive.

Cape Town City Hall Pipe Organ

Moody began his career as an “apprentice conductor for the Landestheater Opera in Linz Austria”. In 2018 he “completed an eleven-year tenure as Music Director for the Portland Symphony in Maine and a thirteen-year tenure as Music Director of the Winston-Salem Symphony in North Carolina”.

Cape Town City Hall – travelground.com

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“Antonín Dvořák was the first Czech composer to achieve worldwide recognition. He lived a rich musical childhood in Prague.”

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Ceiling Cape Town Concert Hall

Moody is a “champion” of Mason Bates, Composer in Residence with the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. He “commissioned / conducted Bates’ first full orchestral composition”. Moody has recorded CDs, collaborated with other artists, and participated in concerts to “aid the fight against multiple myeloma“.

Bryan Wallick Pianist – El Paso Pro Musica

Bryan Wallick Pianist

Bryan Wallick “gained recognition as one of the great American virtuoso pianists of his generation”. He was gold medalist of the 1997 Vladimir Horowitz International Piano Competition in Kiev.

He “plays regularly in the US, Europe, and South Africa”. Wallick studied at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Juilliard School of Music New York, and Royal Academy of Music London. He’s a “noted chamber musician, performing at Carnegie Hall and Wigmore Hall in London”.

Cape Town Orchestra Pit from Concert Hall Bays

Wallick has lived in South Africa for twelve years with his South African wife and their three children. With “mixed feelings,” he’ll soon return to the US.

In 2015 Wallick created Schalk Visser and Bryan Wallick Concert Promotions. He “performs with many of his artists in recitals around South Africa”. The audience loved his flawless performance of Barber’s Piano Concerto!

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“In Middle Europe, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 sometimes receives the nickname Fatum or Fate.”

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Program

My Homeland Czech Composer Antonin Dvorak

Composer Antonin Dvorak is a favorite of mine. His sonata My Homeland has two song themes. The overture was written for a patriotic play “depicting the beginnings of Czech theatre”. The folk melody became Czechoslovakia’s national anthem.

Samuel Barber Composer – Mystic Stamp Company

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra Op. 38 American Composer Samuel Barber

Concerto for Piano is an exciting, complex composition in three movements. Moody aptly described it as “a bit mischievous”. A New York publishing house commissioned Barber to write the piece – his first concerto. The composition premiered at Lincoln Center in 1962. In 1963, Barber won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his concerto.

Symphony No. 4 in F Minor Op. 36 Russian Composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The powerful, dramatic composition is sometimes described as a “reflection of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony”. Tchaikovsky’s movements vacillate from powerful bursts of brass to soft strings, a “plaintive oboe theme,” and delicate woodwinds.

Cape Town Philharmonic is dear to my heart. I was especially happy to hear an Antonín Dvořák composition during this memorable evening! Tchaikovsky and Barber were icing on the cake…

4 Tons of Fun Aretha Franklin Tribute at Alexander Theatre Cape Town

4 Tons of Fun Sthe Mfuphi, Bulelwa Sakayi, Soi Soi Gqeza, Michelle Thomas – iCause

Last night Cape Town’s 4 Tons of Fun paid tribute to the “Queen of SoulAretha Franklin. Sthe Mfuphi, Bulelwa Sakayi, Michelle Thomas, and Soi Soi Gqeza produced the show featuring all-time favorites like “Chain of Fools,” “A Deeper Love,” “Respect,” “Natural Woman,” “Ain’t No Mountain”, “I Say A Little Prayer,” and “I’m Every Woman”.

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“Combining their vocal power, skillful harmonies, and smoldering sensuality with vivacious energy, these larger-than-life women entertain like no other.”

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Aretha Franklin’s iconic legacy spans over six decades – including 44 Grammy nominations with 18 wins and her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. The tribute includes commentary about her life as a singer, songwriter, pianist, and civil rights activist.

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“Aretha Franklin’s powerful distinctive gospel-honed vocal style influenced countless singers and earned her Rolling Stone Magazine’s No. 1 place on a list of the Greatest Singers of All Time.”

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Songwriter, vocalist Sthe Mfuphi (Saxy Sthe) has roots in KwaZulu-Natal where she studied jazz at Natal Technikon. She moved to Cape Town in 2002. Sthe wrote songs for the group’s 2013 debut album Larger than Life and a produced a music video for her original song “Usibali”.

3 Tons of Fun Michelle Thomas, Bulelwa Sakayi, Sthe Mfuphi – Alexander Bar

From East London Eastern Cape, Bulelwa Sakayi (Beautiful Bee) moved to Cape Town to study engineering, but decided to pursue a career in the performing arts instead. Her training includes performing in choral ensembles, film productions, television advertisements, and on stage. Bulelwa “adds a playful flavor to the group”.

Inspired by her drummer/vocalist father, Michelle Thomas (Mysterious Mich) began performing as a child. She attended the University of the Western Cape but ultimately decided to follow her lifelong passion for singing and performing. Michelle joined Sthe and Bee in 2007 to form 3 Tons of Fun.

Soi Soi Gqeza Vocalist – realwiredmusic.com

A Cape Town Native, Soi Soi Gqeza (Sultry Soi Soi) began her singing career as a backup vocalist for artists like Brenda Nokuzola Fassie, Lucky Dube, and Winston Monwabisi Mankunku Ngozi. She performs a repertoire of light jazz standards and Afro-jazz with her band at restaurants, weddings, and corporate events. Soi Soi has performed in Spain, Vietnam, Bahrain, and Thailand. She’s entertained dignitaries including South African presidents Thabo Mbeki and Nelson Mandela.

Aretha Franklin – AXS.com

Aretha Franklin – Atlantic – Detroit Free Press

The group has “wowed thousands of fans for over 11 years”. They’re “synonymous with great fun, positive energy, and big smiles”. It was a fantastic evening with a wonderfully diverse audience clapping, singing along, and dancing in place!

3 Tons of Fun Bulelwa Sakayi, Michelle Thomas, Sthe Mfuphi – Gigster.com

3 Tons of Fun Sthe Mfuphi, Bulelwa Sakayi, Michelle Thomas – Entertainment-Online.co.za

Kunene and the King at Fugard Theatre Cape Town

Last night’s production of Kunene and the King was masterful! Two seasoned actors presented powerful performances capturing the audience’s full attention. John Kani’s new play presents the deep pent-up emotions of South Africans before and after the end of apartheid 25 years ago. It gets to the heart of things with no holds barred.

Fugard Theatre – Cape Town Magazine

My first visit to South Africa was in 1987 – before the end of apartheid. Since then, I’ve returned often and noted many changes. In reflection, Kani’s play seems a racial and political catharsis. At the end, the sold-out house seemed almost stunned. Some had tears in their eyes in reaction to the honest emotions so vividly portrayed – anger, hatred, fear, compassion, hope….

John Kani and Antony Sher Kunene and the King – Ellie Kurtz

Background

Kunene and the King premiered during April in England at The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. The performance last night was a co-production between The Fugard Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company. The play reunites “the powerhouse team of director Janice Honeyman, writer, actor, activist, playwright John Kani, and world-renowned classical actor Sir Antony Sher“.

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Kunene and the King “beautifully captures the complex divides of race, class, and politics in a remarkable, moving new play”. Michael Billington, The Guardian

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Janice Honeyman Director – Media Update

Plot

Kani’s play is a “fitting tribute to mark the anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections after apartheid”. In the play Kani and Sher play two elderly men “from contrasting walks of life thrust together to reflect on a quarter century of change”. In Kani’s words – “Their relationship examines the very foundation on which our democracy is built.”

Lungiswa Plaatjies Musician, Singer, Composer – Sarafina Magazine

John Kani is Lunga Kunene, “a headstrong African male nurse contracted to care for cantankerous white actor Jack Morris, Antony Sher”. Jack is coping with terminal liver cancer and determined to play King Lear before he dies. To pass time, Lunga helps Jack practice lines for his role in Shakespeare’s play. During their crass and edgy interactions, they mellow, get to know each other, and develop an unlikely friendship.

Kunene and the King – Royal Shakespeare Company

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Kunene only knows Julius Caesar from his school days, because “it’s about a failed conspiracy, and at the time one play was considered enough Shakespeare for a native child”.

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King Lear – Bookrepublic

As Kunene learns the plot, he shares his disappointment that King Lear failed to “consult ancestors” – something an African would do. Kunene compares the characteristics of King Lear’s three daughters Regan, Goneril, and Cordelia to South African Presidents Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, and Jacob Zuma. True to form, Jack snaps back reminding him that King Lear is an English play, not African.

Fugard Theatre – Jesse Kate Kramer Photography

Talented actors, directors, designers, and managers all contributed to the unforgettable production. Lungiswa Plaatjies‘ on-stage singing in isiXhosa is glorious.

Kunene and the King – facebook

Kani and Sher

John Kani and Anthony Sher share a love of Shakespeare. Like the characters they play, the have vastly different backgrounds. Kani grew up in the Eastern Cape while Sher, the child of an affluent Jewish family, is from Sea Point.

Accomplished Kani began acting in high school. He met fellow activist, actor, playwright, and director Athol Fugard in the 1960s. After touring, teaching, and performing in the US and Australia, Kani returned to South Africa in the 1970s. At that time during the Black Consciousness Movement, he experienced the brutal injustices of apartheid and had a rocky relationship with South African police.

Kunene and the King Antony Sher – rsc.org

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“Kunene and Jack need to shake their habit of treating the other as a specimen: one of ‘you people’, white or black. This isn’t always easy.” TheatreCat Libby Purves

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Sir Anthony Sher Actor – BBC

Kani has received recognition and awards for his work, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Cape Town and a South African Film and Television Lifetime Achievement Award. Today, he’s executive trustee of the Market Theatre Foundation, director of the Market Theatre Laboratory, and Chairman of the National Arts Council of South Africa.

Athol Fugard Playwright, Novelist, Actor, and Director – Richard Corman Photography

At 19, Antony Sher left South Africa and moved to London to begin an acting career. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1982. Three years later he won the Laurence Olivier Best Actor award for his performance in the title role of Richard III. In 1997, Sher won a second Olivier for his portrayal of Stanley Spencer in Stanley.

Fugard Theatre Foyer – TravelGround.com

Sher became a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2000. He met his partner, Gregory Doran, in London. Doran is Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

John Kani Playwright, Activist, Actor – The South African / Image Zalebs

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“Kani’s writing remains deeply incisive, full of both anger and understanding…” Dave Fargnoli, The Stage

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Kunene and the King John Kani and Antony Sher – The New York Times

I’m privileged to have attended Kunene and the King – there’s much to learn from the play. It was a magnificent performance and memorable evening.

Cape Town Comedy Club

The Pumphouse – capetowncomedy.com

During my time in Cape Town, I’m hiking easy to moderate Table Mountain trails and enjoying the Mother City’s talented performing arts community. There are a variety of live performances available – each unique and outstanding.

Last night was my first visit to the Cape Town Comedy Club – the city’s “dedicated comedy venue”. I had no idea what to expect, but knew the club was popular. I got lost trying to find it. In daylight it would be easy, at night the V&A Waterfront’s maze of parking garages and roundabouts was confusing. I didn’t have a specific street address – the GPS got muddled and so did I. Now I know the club is simply across the street from Cape Town Ferris Wheel with its spectacular 360-degree views of Table Bay!

Glen Biderman-Pam Comedian – Cape Town Comedy Club

I arrived embarrassingly late to what appeared to be a full house. I was expecting a performance by Goliath and Goliath – an award-winning South African comedy group. Instead, four hilarious comedians performed:

Charles Tertiens Comedian – Cape Town Comedy Club

Their characterizations of Americans were relentlessly scathing. I laughed hoping I didn’t share too many of the shameless traits they portrayed. With an extended visa I’ve traveled to South Africa frequently for several years. The few Americans encountered were subdued, if not shy. Today, it’s tricky being American. My accent has become a little skewed – something that can happen when traveling out of your home country for extended periods of time. People have asked if I’m Australian (?) or British.

Mel Jones Comedian – Cape Town Comedy Club

The comedians weren’t the least bit stingy with their interpretations. Their witty plays – Germans, Americans, Canadians, Dutch, Jews, fellow South African comedian Trevor Noah, whites in general, South African whites in particular, and South African cities, neighborhoods, and townships – were side-splitting. Some South African nuances were above my head, but having recently spent three months in Berlin – the comedic characterizations of Germans were especially funny :).

Kristel Zweers Comedian – Cape Town Comedy Club

The audience was mostly South African with a few foreigners / tourists. I was one of two solo tables in the audience – something I’ve gotten used to in my travels that doesn’t stop me from attending performances on my own.

Goliaths – Nicholas, Jason, Donovan

Cape Town Comedy Club is part of the Pumphouse Restaurant & Bar. It’s in the historic Pumphouse Building with “soaring ceilings, original stone walls, and cozy tables spread out around a generous stage”. The building is where the “first dynamo was installed to illuminate Table Bay Harbour”.

The Pumphouse V&A Waterfront

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“The Pumphouse dates back to 1892 and is so named because it was used to pump water from Robinson Dry Dock.”

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Cape Town Comedy Club – People Magazine

Traveller.com voted Cape Town Comedy Club “one of the ten best comedy clubs in the world”. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening!

Fugard Theatre – Wikimedia Commons

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to attending another favorite Cape Town venue – Fugard Theatre. Their production of John Kani’s Kunene and The King, a “two men in one show about 25 years of SA democracy”, plays through May 25.

Kunene and the King – Twitter

More later…

I Capuleti E I Montecchi at Artscape Theatre Cape Town

Artscape Theatre – Mail and Guardian

Artscape Theatre is a favorite venue in Cape Town and last night I attended a performance of I Capuleti e i Montecchi – The Capulets and Montagues. In this creative production, Cape Town Opera (CTO) collaborates with the University of Cape Town (UCT) Opera School to present Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini’s work. It’s based on Shakespeare’s classic play and Luigi Scevola’s tragedy Giulietta e Romeo.

I Capuleti E I Montecchi – Tirana Times

Vincenzo Bellini wrote I Capuleti E I Montecchi for the 1830 Carnival Season at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. It was an enormous success and later appeared at King’s Theater in London, the Paris Opera, and on the Swedish stage.

Jeremy Silver Director UCT Opera School – iono.fm

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I Capuleti has “endlessly long, melancholy vocal lines. In the first act finale Romeo and Juliet sing a long unison melody with only brief pauses for breath.”

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Steven Stead Director – Kickstart Theatre

Marvin Kernelle Chorus Master CTO – Cape Town Opera

Bellini cast the star-crossed lovers as a soprano and mezzo-soprano featuring his “trademark sensuous duets”. The libretto by Felice Romani is a “reworking of Romeo and Juliet” with a simplified story line. The five soloists are Romeo, Juliet, Juliet’s father Capelio, Lorenzo a physician, and Juliet’s betrothed Tebaldo. As the opera opens, Romeo and Juliet have already met and fallen in love.

Artscape Theatre – town.co.za

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“With his melancholy melodies, Bellini aims straight for our hearts, giving us not a moment’s doubt of the young lovers’ feelings for one another.”

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Vincenzo Bellini Composer – Primephonic

The opera features a “youthful cast from UCT Opera School and CTO’s Young Artist Programme“. Jeremy Silver, Director of the UCT Opera School, conducts the UCT Symphony Orchestra. Steven Stead directs the performance and Marvin Kernelle is CTO Chorus Master. Michael Mitchell designed the set and costumes, while stage lighting is by Kobus Rossouw.

Cape Town Opera Chorus

Cape Town Opera Youth Development and Education (YDE) Department

The story of Romeo and Juliet inspired hundreds of operas. Shakespeare used life in the Renaissance Period to develop the plot for his play. Bellini’s opera applies “bel canto elegiac styleis” to emphasize the “poignancy of the love story”.

Kobus Rossouw Lighting Design – kobusrossouw.net

I Capuleti e i Montecchi – OVS Arts of Italy

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“Bellini’s opera spins out extended threads of wistful, longing song in passages that are among the best of the bel canto elegiac style.”

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Cast

UCT Symphony Orchestra – Baxter Theatre Centre

Michael Mitchell Set and Costume Designer – Getty Images

The highly emotional two-act performance – with more than one person shedding a tear – was a total delight, BIG smile!