Grahamstown Sun 27th June - Day 3
Grey drizzly morning & goddamn it's cold & windy! "Why oh why didn't I bring UK winter clothes?" I ask myself (not for the last time). I finally get a wireless password for the campus & start uploading my first blog. Glance at my watch & realize I'm gonna be late for the morning meet with Pervaiz Khan, which is being held at Oatlands School prior to the Sustained Theatre workshop. We all shiver & chat about shows we saw yesterday. Pawlett, Sharon and Marcia report on some disastrously poor dance shows they saw & they stand in a line to demonstrate the appalling cheesiness of the choreography.
Sustained Theatre Workshop
No one turns up, so we workshop ourselves, discussing Sustained Theatre plans for future developments over the next couple of years. We spend so long talking that we finish an hour and a half late at 1.40pm. I want to watch the hotly recommended theatre show Karoo Moose, which starts at 2pm, so I rush off alone, but I take a wrong turning and end up so late that I give up, hoping to see it tonight or tomorrow. Festival Lesson Two: Never rush to see any show, unless it is the last performance of the festival.
I eat lunch alone in a hippy looking restaurant on High Street, then I call Harry Owen. Harry Owen is the ex Poet Laureate of Cheshire, who I met when I worked for Apples & Snakes. Couple of years ago, he got in contact through Facebook with his childhood sweetheart, who had moved to South Africa. They rekindled their romance via internet & two years ago, Harry emigrated to join her in Grahamstown. Harry invites me to come and watch the England-Germany match at his house. I was planning to watch it in a suitably noisy bar full of fans, but I agree & a few minutes later he picks me up. Harry and his partner live in a beautiful detached house, just off the steep hill that I climbed last night on my way to see Hex at "PJ's". His partner is surprised to see me, but very welcoming; she is Dean of Rhodes University, so clearly a big wheel in town. Harry talks about poets & projects, in particular Philippa Yaa De Villers, who, by coincidence, is a former mentee of John Lindley, another ex Poet Laureate of Cheshire. Harry seems to be having the time of his life, writing poetry and doing poetry education projects in the township. Ahh, what a retirement!
England v Germany - boo hoo hoo
I get a text from Shaun Cope, saying that he is in the Rat & Parrot, a popular British expat bar, about to watch the match. Harry says he doesn't mind if I go watch it there, he often watches matches there himself, but doesn't feel like dealing with the crowd today. I feel a bit guilty leaving Harry so soon, but I really want to experience the public vibe of the SA World Cup, so I arrange to meet him later at the Arts & Islam/Sustained Theatre reception. The Rat & Parrot is indeed packed & I find Shaun perched on a stool by the bar behind a crowd of seated England fans. The atmosphere is indeed intense and for the last ten minutes of the 1st half, when England make their comeback & get a goal disallowed, it feels delirious. Of course, we lose heavily. I said "we"; this is the first time that I have ever identified with an England team in any sport. I must be drifting to the right in my old age.
Arts & Islam Reception/Poetry Gig
In the evening, all the UK ST theatre crew are at the Arts & Islam/Sustained Theatre Reception. Unlike the workshops, plenty of people turn up. Could be something to do with the free food & drink? Learning from the mistakes of the Dutch reception, Pervaiz Khan (Sustained Theatre) & Hassan (Arts & Islam) keep the speeches short & sweet, then onto short poetry sets by myself, Avaes Mohammad, Philippa Yaa De Villers, Lebo Mashile & "Prof Willie" Keorapetse Kgositsile. I feel like I'm floating on a poetry high. Once again, Lebo smashes it. Her use of body language and stagewomanship is quite incredible, possibly the most inspiring & charismatic performance poet I have seen since US poet Dana Bryant. After the performances, everyone gets stuck into the food & drink & networking. Harry Owen turns up & I introduce him to Felix Cross, they seem to get along famously.
Then, it's down the hill to the Urban Lounge for the Arts & Islam gig featuring full sets from Avaes Mohammad & from Poetic Pilgrimage. The audience is enthusiastic, but everyone is wrapped up in several layers and still shivering in the draughty tent. I realize that I can actually see my own breath, in Africa! Tsssk! Avaes does a relatively subdued set, by his mercurial standards, but this actually works well, because it means I can hear all the words really clearly and precisely, which sometimes get lost when he gets on a passionate roll. Poetic Pilgrimage get everyone singing along "You're beautiful, you know, you know, you're beautiful". They got some funkyass beats too & they cajole & bully us to our feet to dance. At the end of their set, they invite MCs up to the stage for a freestyle, which is terminated prematurely, when the police turn up & the stage manager abruptly switches off the lights and sound.
Jean September from Capetown British Council invites all the Sustained Theatre & Arts & Islam crew to an Italian restaurant. The restaurant looks the real Italian rustic part, but the food is actually pretty average. Doesn't help that they have run out of 3 types of pasta, mushrooms and fillet steak. How on earth can an Italian restaurant run out of dry pasta? I sit next to Muneera & Sukina of Poetic Pilgrimage and Nike Jonah from Arts Council. Muneera & Sukina are cracking me up. They have both got a surprisingly mischievous sense of humour, I can only imagine what they were like before they embraced Islam. It's been a lot of fun hanging with them. Likewise, it's been great getting to know Nike better. She has been recounting hilarious stories of her sojourns in New York & Gambia; she has known some very weird people for real. While chatting about Naija things, Muneera reveals that Nike is actually ibeji (identical twin) like me, except that she is Kehinde (second out of the womb), while I am Taiwo (first out of the womb).
Keywords: grahamstown national arts festival south africa
Posted by segun, Sunday 27th June, 2010