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The Arts and the African City

Zelmarie Goosen
September10/ 2014
TOGETHER THROUGH ART: The theme of the 2014 Arts Alive Festival is 20 years of democracy, emphasizing the role the art's had in ending Apartheid.
TOGETHER THROUGH ART: The theme of the 2014 Arts Alive Festival is 20 years of democracy, emphasizing the role the art’s had in ending Apartheid. Photo: Provided

The people of Johannesburg once again have the opportunity to experience the city in an artistic way. Poetry, music, dance and theatre are being celebrated during the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival, which kicked off on the 31st of August.

“Cities are more than just about bricks and mortar, they are about the quality of life,” says Festival Director Lesley Hudson.

“The arts makes a huge contribution to the way we experience our city, and the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival plays an important part in this.”

Hosted by the City of Johannesburg, this is the 22nd year the Festival is being held. It has an intense programme that offers a wide range of performances, exhibitions, workshops and musicals, taking place at various venues in the city.

The theme of this year is 20 years of democracy, and a lot of the shows were organised around it. Hudson emphasizes that the organisers of the Festival try every year to consider the different genres, ages of the audience when deciding on the festival’s programme.

“But most importantly, we try to pair the unexpected with the better known. So, you will come to a concert because you recognise a name, but will be exposed to a performer you would not ordinarily have seen,” says Hudson. “It’s about broadening horizons.”

The Festival started during the last few years of Apartheid, when the arts were used in the drive to shift South Africa towards a democracy. Hudson says the city of Johannesburg realized an arts festival could “give voice to its citizens” and be part of building a better and fairer society.

The festival is running until the 10th of September, and Hudson encourages both students and the public to go beyond what they know and feel comfortable with, and let the festival “wow them”.

“There is nothing more thrilling than seeing 24 000 Joburgers all speaking the language of music; enjoying the sun, the sound, and each other,” says Hudson.

Zelmarie Goosen