The historic town of Stellenbosch, along with a long list of established local sponsors, hosts its 19th Festival of literature and the arts. Woordfees, directly translated, means ‘Festival of Words’, and although the festival is a celebration of Afrikaans language, it isn’t necessary to have a command of the language to enjoy the many events on offer. Mischa Ruby Fisher highlights a few unmissable events.
Athandwa Kani and Tinarie van Wyk Loots’ production of Gif/Poison/Ityhefu offers a tri-lingual production suited to Xhosa, Afrikaans and English-speaking audiences. Comic Rob van Vuuren presents his production of Dangled, which is based on a dark, psychosexual horror-comedy work by Nikolai Gogol. The production has already collected multiple awards, including the 2016 Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award. Promised Land is a multi-disciplinary puppet production which tells the story of a refugee boy’s journey by means of puppets, animation and choral music. Award-winning theatre director Sylvaine Strike of District 9 fame directs a production of Curse of the Starving Class.
Local and international short and feature films are screened at the University’s iconic Pulp Cinema. Highlights include Ingmar Bergman’s 1968 film, Shame, and Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro. Film scholar Julia Cain hosts a talk on the influence of Bergman’s work on modern cinema and further talks are hosted by Leon van Nierop and a number of other big names in the industry. Documentaries by local filmmakers are also screened, including Michelle Pretorius’ inside look at SA rock band the Springbok Nude Girls, and Aliki Saragas’ DIFF winning look at the personal and political implications of the Marikana Massacre.
A variety of talks approach hard-hitting topics such as Language & Poverty and how to bridge the gap between Afrikaans theatre and productions directed in other languages. The Unheard Discussion series covers topics such as everyday politics, masculinity in the media and more, while Science Café tackles the implications of a fourth Industrial Revolution, and Philosophy Café invites guests to listen to intrepid discourse between professors of the field.
CONTEMPORARY & JAZZ MUSIC
Woordfees’ Family Day features a diverse lineup of top South African artists, including Afro-folk singer-songwriter Bongeziwe Mabandla, alternative pop singer Jimmy Nevis and more. The Centenary Concert features the US Jazz Band as an opening act, followed the Centenary Band featuring household names such as Laurika Rauch, Coenie de Villiers and Valiant Swart. The day ends with a special performance by J’Something and Mi Casa.
The festival also includes a great selection of classical music shows including the Cape Town Opera’s collaboration with the University’s music and drama departments, the Fairy Queen, directed by Erik Dippenaar (Orfeo). Nina Schumann and Luis Magalhães team up once again to present a musical performance featuring piano works by Mozart, Debussy, Mendelssohn and Liszt, and the German Signum Quartet present a concert on piano and viola. Cello Meets Dance is an inter-disciplinary performance of live music and dance.
Foodies will be delighted to learn that this year’s festival has a strong focus on tastings, demonstrations and pairings with high profile chefs such as Bertus Basson and Reuben Riffel. The word and wine dinners also offer a unique experience where a writer, poet or speaker partners with a winemaker for a discussion over a specially designed meal. The Private Hotel School hosts various cocktail & canapé evenings.
As is the yearly tradition, Woordfees has a diverse selection of visual art exhibitions and activities scheduled. Pop-Art painter and gallery curator Alex Hamilton offers a tour of Stellenbosch University art museum for adults, while Ilana Marais offers the child-friendly equivalent. Among the many art talks on offer is a printmaking discussion and The Art of Art Investment with art expert Marelize van Zyl and Sanlam art collection curator Stefan Hundt. Animator Diek Grobler collaborates with the Cape Town Music Academy to present Afrika, my Verlange, an audiovisual animation and world music experience at the Stellenbosch Town Hall. The Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden is open to the public during the festival and a poetry reading is also hosted in the space.
Regardless of mothertongue, style or preference, there is something on the programme for everyone and if previous Woordfees events are anything to go by, it’s safe to say that this year’s festival is not to be missed.