By ROBYN APOLLUS
Makhanda is alive with creativity all year round, long before and after hosting the annual Nationals Arts Festival.
The Makhanda Project is amply demonstrating this by exhibiting six filmed works about the artists living and working in Makhanda.
The creatives who have produced these works have all had deeply personal relationships with the town and many of them currently live in it.
You can watch for free online until Monday 15 November.
With funding from the National Arts Council, the six pieces give insight into the city’s talent and diversity.
Presented by the NAF with funding from the National Arts Council, these short, compelling pieces give insight into the talent and diversity woven through the town, the deep quest for healing and a new beginning and some stories behind the scenes.
Executive producer, Nobesuthu Rayi, hosted The Makhanda Project launch on Thursday, 28 October. She led the event wonderfully and gave great insight into the importance of the project. “We needed to use a different lens when looking at Makhanda as a town, to say as a festival we should be contributing to the livelihood and the industry which does not exist in Makhanda and working towards reviving it.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacted a heavy toll on the arts. According to the Artistic Director of the National Arts Festival, Rucera Seethal, “In these past two years of pandemic context, the National Arts Festival, like many other institutions, has had to rethink its purpose, its place, and how it manifests itself. One pivotal part of the Festival’s identity is its locality – its relationship to the environment, history and the stories and visions of those who occupy the town and the Festival. Despite the ease of global reach of digital work, as experienced in the 2020 and 2021 editions of the National Arts Festival which weighed heavily on digital and online content, there is also a palpable urge to reach back to the town which is the genesis of the Festival.”
Six projects, one home:
One Art Documentary by Sinethemba ‘Oz’ Konzaphi
Presented by Blah Ze Blah Pty Ltd, this behind-the-scenes documentary explores the various creative activities and role-players behind the Makhanda Art Project initiative. Its director, Sinethemba Konzaphi is a videographer and editor with an eye for detail. He has a keen interest in new technologies and strategic communication. For this project, Konzaphi was mentored by Johannesburg-based visual journalist and documentary photographer, Daylin Paul.
The Lost Conversations by Xolile ‘ X’ Madinda
The Lost Conversations is an extended series of dialogues, negotiations and discussions based on the discovered manuscripts of Mdushane, the warrior-prophet Makhanda’s trusted military advisor. These conversations are conceptualised at Mhlonipeki’s (Makhanda’s) study, where allies are summoned and consulted before the upcoming Battle of Grahamstown. The aim of this production is to interrogate and perform written and oral stories about Makhanda’s strategies and legacy. It’s director, Xolile Madinda is a hip-hop artist, social activist, community educator, entrepreneur and founder of Around HipHop, The Black Power Station and Fingo Festival. Madinda worked with writer, artist and curator, Thuile Gamedze on the film. Gamedze’s work involves reflecting on transdisciplinary practices for black women in postcolonial spaces.
Weyisile (Conquered) Kutlwano Kepadisa
Based in Makhanda, this four-part music video series directed by Kutlwano Kepadisa takes audiences on a teenage girl’s journey as she discovers the hero within. As she journeys, she is accompanied by spirit guides in the form of vocal harmony, body percussion and movement. Her journey ultimately leads back to her home, where she finds belonging as well as the promise of a new beginning. Kepadisa is the founder of Makhanda Kwantu Choir as well as the assistant director of music at the Cathedral Church of St Michael and St George. She is also the choirmaster for Rhodes University’s Chamber Choir and the director for Graeme College’s Leopard’s Voice. For Weyisile, Kepadisa was mentored by documentarian Khalid Shamis as well as music producer James Bassingthwaighte who scores for large orchestras.
Ingulo by Via Kasi Movers
Via Kasi Movers is a Makhanda-based Pantsula dance group. Starring Thanduxolo Kilani, Athenkosi Matiwane, Likhaya Jack and Anethemba Bhikitsha, this film takes isiPantsula into the realm of a contemporary dance form that is current, authentic and influenced by a rich South African historical background. The piece aims to heal and renew, and in so doing, to honour the life of Ayanda Nondlwana (founder and leader of Via Kasi Movers). The life force for the rest of the group and its work within the community is restored through this production. The collective was mentored by Johannesburg-based teacher, choreographer, pantsula advocate and director of Impilo Mapantsula, Vusi Mdoyi.
Abantu Bahamba Apha by Samkela Stamper
This piece explores the labour inequalities that have existed in Makhanda since it became a Settler’s Town in 1820. Within the work is a deep need to cleanse the town of this negativity while restoring the dignity of the people. Stamper is founder of the Thandeka Stamper Art Galari eNgqushwa & co-founder of The Open Space in Rhini. She is a poet, playwright, visual and performing artist. Her work is located in community, performance and public spaces and concerns itself with memory and the archive. She was mentored by Faniswa Yiza, a Cape Town-based actress and director.
Movers and Shakers in the Eastern Cape by Nombasa Maqoko
Nombasa Maqoko is a musician, singer and songwriter, she is the founder and producer of Life Song Podcast. She is dedicated to entrepreneurship through music, media, broadcasting and African music. Her podcast series Movers and Shakers takes a close look at four individuals who are living out their passions through serving their communities. Dr. Nompucuko Zakaza, Bongiwe “Mthwakazi Chosi” Lusizi, Sonwa Sakuba and Sivuyisiwe Giba are making big moves in the Eastern Cape to make sure the province is uplifted and the arts are practiced as a legacy for generations to come. Nombasa Maqoko shadowed them to capture their daily routine and to see how they live their lives and make decisions that lead to the betterment of their communities. To produce the podcast, Maqoko was mentored by Elijah Mabinda, a bassist and resident sound engineer at the International Library of African Music.