a green guide to grahamstown festival

Submitted by sproutscout on Tue, 2011-06-28 18:15


It's that time of year again to bundle up, brave the cold, and devour the cultural feast South Africa has to offer at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. This year it seems that environmental consciousness has seeped into some of the performances and workshops, creating an interesting place to explore the arts and the environment. What is collectively on our minds and in our hearts looks to be reflected on stage in some of the festival spaces.

A particularly interesting space you should explore is the Re-imaginings Forum, at the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) on Rhodes Campus. The space is set up to enable us to discover and learn about creative practice in sustainability. Thinkfest offers some interesting socio-political lectures and debates; be sure to catch the Leadership for Sustainability Series, presented by the Rhodes Business School. The Wordfest section of the Fringe programme will present a debate on Karoo Fracking (02/07/11 at 10:00 at Edengrove) as well as an environmental poetry response session to this issue (05/07/11 at 15:00 at Edengrove).

Be sure to look out for shows and exhibitions that have already been given great reviews by Urban Sprout. Planet B, reviewed as a production of the Well Worn Theatre Co., is showing on the fringe and Re-imaginings programmes, from the 30th of June to the 9th of July. Well Worn’s Pollution Revolution will also be shown from the 2nd to the 9th of July as part of the family theatre section of the fringe programme. Such Initiative will be displaying their Bottletop Mosaic: Tomorrow’s Joy at the Village Green throughout festival (watch their space for some guerilla art performances).

Tommorrow's Joy Bottletop Mosaic - Photo: Such InitiativeTommorrow's Joy Bottletop Mosaic - Photo: Such Initiative


The (ELRC), built in 2010, according to eco-design principles, will be the main hub of the environmental and sustainable side of arts fest. Sit amid the tree nurseries and food gardens and listen to the performances happening in the courtyard. Walk out into the botanical gardens after an inspiring environmental workshop. Survey the local craft market and exhibitions, and grab some locally grown food provided by Isondlo Unlimited.

Explore the interesting commentary about plastic-waste islands that are cropping up in most of the world’s ocean gyres through Simon Max Bannister's work, Plastikos. He creates mythical creatures out of waste, relating the story of waste, and where it ultimately ends up: the oceans. As you roam around these creatures, take in the strange coral reef that’s exhibited for the Woodstock Art Reef Project (WARP). The project has crocheted and assembled coral-reef like objects to demonstrate the beauty and intricacy of coral, and raise awareness about the effect climate change has on it.

The Pond/Watering System - The Heart of the ELRCThe Pond/Watering System - The Heart of the ELRC

Take part in the Earth Forum social sculpture facilitated by Shelley Sacks. Participants create and imagine their wishes for environmentalism, for the earth, and for COP 17, without their egos or identities hampering the way in which they communicate. It’s a process of social sculpture left better to experience than description, so be sure to be around the ELRC on the 3rd of July for this workshop. If you can't get enough of creative workshopping look out for the Creeping Toad Workshops on the 6th, 7th and 8th of July, to creatively explore the way you interact with the people that surround you and the places you inhabit.

All artists performing, working and exhibiting in the space will give lectures about their perspectives on environmentalism, art, and their ecological views in general. In addition those interested can hear from other environmental organisations in South Africa. Ann Lamont of GreenPeace Africa will address those interested on the 3rd of July about the media and the environment. On the 6th of July audiences will learn about Urban Food foresting from some of the most experienced urban foresters: Food and Trees for Africa. On the 8th of July, Mumsie Gumede, CEO of WESSA will take the audience through 80 years of environmentalism, how it has been transformed through public participation, and how it has affected our re-imaginings of the earth.

The Rhodes Environmental Learning and Research CentreThe Rhodes Environmental Learning and Research Centre

It is hard to disentangle artistic works into those that are environmentally and non-environmentally concerned. As each work or performance is a representation of the manner in which the world is viewed, it is also then, a comment on the environment in which the artist finds themself. Never the less, environmentally minded festival goers might like to catch the following on the main and fringe programmes:

Learn about the human brain, and the leopards of the Cape, hear from the naked scientist and add your two cents into the ‘Land reform and Rural Development’ debate. Most importantly look out for the Leadership and Sustainability section of the thinkfest series, hosted by the Rhode Business School. Hear from Clem Sunter about his view of a sustainable future, listen to Stuart Pennington as he talks on sustainable competitiveness, and hear from Les Auplais a director at Carte Blanche, as she speaks on sustainable media. Watch out for a review of the Panel Discussion between these three speakers by Sproutscout herself. All events will happen at the Blue Lecture Theatre at Eden Grove on Rhodes Campus.

A Car Made of Upcycled Material (on display at the back of the ELRC)A Car Made of Upcycled Material (on display at the back of the ELRC)

The Art of Opportunity

Look out for the Phezulu Stilt Walkers, puppets and parades from the arkwork collective and the ARTReach Project which makes selected shows more accessible to those who are unable to make them. The Move Your Mind Parade will see most of these performers come together to mark the end of festival. These projects all form part of the Art of Opportunity Programme, which seeks to grow the capacity of budding artists through the provision of tools and workshops and constructive spaces. It aims to give “the artists tools to fulfil their social responsibility through creativity and growth in the arts economy,” and give festival goers enthralling creative experiences at the same time.

Upcycled Car - Photograph: Jonathan JonesUpcycled Car - Photograph: Jonathan Jones

Zeitgiest: Moving Forward is a documentary that explores the current socio-economic world order and monetary system. It makes the case that the world order needs to be transformed into one that takes into account natural laws and thus is inherently more sustainable. To see how the argument is made catch it on the 3rd and 4th of July at 14:30 and 17:00 respectively at Olive Schreiner Hall at the Monument


Take a stroll through the Bloukrantz Nature Reserve to stumble upon the BlouKrantz pool. “This tranquil pool, sparkling in the sunlight, is a place of pilgrimage, of ghosts, a spiritual domain lying there, brooding, quiet and sombre.” The Tours will run on the 4th, 5th, and 7th of July – look out for them in the Fringe Programme.

There is much more of the festival to explore, and no doubt environmental consciousness and commentary will appear in many other performances. Watch this space for photos of fest, reviews of the items mentioned, and new environmental finds.

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