The cultural events diary is jam packed for the next month

After the freezin’ cold snap with the brief swirl of Highveld snowflakes, faithful Jozi winter weather has returned – warm days when the sun is out with high clear blue skies, and chilly early mornings and evenings and in the shade.  So – no excuse for not getting out to make the most of some of the exciting things on offer.  Starting with the immediate:  

Walkabout at JGBC: Beyond Words Wits Art Museum 22nd July at 12 pm 

JGBC … bet you didn’t know what this stood for which shows just what a hidden gem it is.  I have written about the Jack Ginsberg Book Centre before. This extra-ordinary (in the literal sense of the word) modest space on the second floor of the Wits Art Museum is home to over 3000 artists’ books ie artworks made by artists in the form of a book. (“Form” and “book” in this context are very loosely applied!) You HAVE to visit the Centre to understand the range and significance of this collection. Small exhibitions focused on particular themes are curated at regular intervals. The last one was around Mail Art – a topic which caused a lot of confusion in chatting with friends who thought I was referring to Male Art. The latest exhibition is entitled Beyond Words. The invite reads: “Discussion and demonstrations will explore ways in which the artists have used typography, the empty space on the page and the structure of an artist’s book to create or reinforce meaning’.  

1789 at the Sibikwa Arts Centre 

There are still 2 shows left of 1789 … in a venue that is new to me and in an area ‘far away on the East Rand’ … but good theatre is worth a long drive!  There are performances of 1789 on 22nd and 23rd July at 3 pm at the Sibikwa Arts Centre in Benoni. 

Ariane Mnouchkine’s “1789” is directed by veteran South African directors Phyllis Klotz and Smal Ndaba.  It is being performed at the Sibikwa Arts Centre in association with the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and Théâtre du Soleil.

1789 is the one date that is seared in memory from my Matric history … the year of the French Revolution, with iconic events like the storming the Bastille, the Oath in the tennis court, cries of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.  

Robyn Sassen in her excellent review calls it “immersion theatre like you have never experienced before”. She concludes: “in short, it redefines what theatre should be in this world. And though deeply violent, it is an act of collaborative love.” I can’t wait for Sunday.  There are 3 ticketing options: ticket only for R100; a ticket and a light French meal for R200; and a ticket with shuttle from Rosebank Mall and a light French Meal for R300.  

Vermeer -The Blockbuster Exhibition

Jan Vermeer The Art of Painting ca 1666-8; from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria. This work was not on the Exhibition so it will be interesting to see if it is referred to in the film.


This film is one in the series: Exhibition on Screen which gives access to major international art exhibitions, in this case the largest Vermeer exhibition in history which showed at the Rijksmusem in Amsterdam from February to early June 2023Of Vermeer’s oeuvre comprising some 34 paintings in total28 were shown at this exhibition. His works, in their pictorial complexity, textural allure, evocation of profound stillness, and combination of allegory and contemporary Dutch life, are extraordinary examples of the Golden Period of the Dutch Empire. There are 4 showings at Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank from 28th July to 1st August.  

Turbine Art Fair Hyde Park Corner 27th to 30th July 

The first Turbine Art Fair was held in 2012 at the Turbine Hall in Newtown, a wonderful industrial space that encouraged a meander through cavernous  tunnels and evocative basement spaces.  Although the Fair still bears the name of this initial venue, it has since moved to various locations and this year is being held at Hyde Park Corner, a stone’s throw from Liz at Lancaster. The Fair is sure to be a buzzy affair with loads of artwork by both established and up-and-coming artists, commissioned installations, art talks, and local design and fashion. And for sure the food and drinks stalls will be fabulous as the The Forum Company, (organizers of the Fair) are renowned for their food and catering.  Tickets can be booked with Webtickets

Swan Lake Teatro Monte Casino 2nd to 13th August

Following sold out seasons in London, Paris and Sydney, St Petersburg Ballet Theatre brings its full-length production of Swan Lake to South Africa. A full orchestra of local musicians will perform Tchaikovsky’s score. With a company of over 60 dancers, the principal ballerina, Margarita Avdeeva, who comes from Uzbekistan, will share the lead role with Irina Kolesnikova, prima ballerina of St Petersburg Ballet Theatre.  This production has not been without contention because of its Russian location and roots.  I do question whether boycotting this production would have any influence on Putin and his henchmen and would not rather have the effect of punishing Russian dancers, trapped in a brutally authoritarian state.  In mitigation, the producer has indicated that the ballet features dancers from many countries, “such as Poland, Japan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Serbia, UK, Armenia and Russia”. A friend saw this production in Cape Town and said it is sublime and not to be missed. But sadly, many performances are already sold out, so don’t delay in booking.  

Otherscapes at JCAF [Johannesburg Contemporary Art Foundation]  until 4th Nov 2023 

Otherscapes the latest exhibition at JCAF follows the viewing format of all previous exhibitions.  Tours have to be booked in advance, are an hour long and the installations are mediated by a guide.  Otherscapes comprises single installations by 4 contemporary South African artists: Sethembile Msezane, Siemon Allen, Wim Botha and Nicolas Hlobo. The connecting thread between them is laid out in the 5 photographs which introduce the exhibition and were chosen by curator Clive Kellner as iconic markers of significant moments in South Africa’s democratic history. These photos show:

  • Voting Day 27th April 1994
  • Mandela and Francois Pienaar after South Africa’s euphoric victory in the Rugby World Cup 24 June 1995
  • the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 1997
  • striking miners at Marikana August 2012
  • a televised image of the death of George Floyd taken in a domestic interior during loadshedding in 2020
Detail of photo by Graham Lacy, Courtesy JCAF

The explanatory text reads: 

South Africa’s transition from the apartheid regime to democracy was heralded globally as a miracle, ushering in utopian visions of a rainbow nation, which proved to be stronger in symbolism and legislative change than in structural transformation. Three decades later, South Africans are grappling with the notion of failure, overshadowed by the ideas of what this democracy could have been. Unresolved dispossession, an ailing economy, unemployment, continuous load-shedding, corruption and crime have led to a state of social exhaustion and political disillusionment.

How then can we, as South Africans, deal with the disjunction between this past utopia and present dystopia, between euphoria and failure, between promise and disappointment. How do we make meaning of our lives in current South Africa. It is this which the 4 artists grapple with, in differing and non-literal ways.  Msezane draws on the spiritual space of ancestors and the connection to harsh realities of everyday material existence. Siemon Allen ‘records’ South Africa’s official representations of itself over a period of a century through a very specific archive: a massive installation of over 23,000 South African postage stamps from 1910 to 2010. (More info.).  Part of this installation is seen in the photograph below. Wim Botha engages with the fractured and wounded nature of South African society through art historical references to antique sculptures. In Botha’s work the enduring nature of marble is subverted by his use of the ephemeral material of polystyrene. Jagged fragmented shards implode in a chaotic shattering with recumbent robed figures, winged forms and a large menacing bull.  And in a large performative ‘hide and seek’ artwork by Nicolas Hlobo, the viewer is confronted with unsettling responses to the uncomfortable experience of darkness, having to crouch and bend in confusing corridors of moving strands of ribbon dragging across face and arms, and a startling and unexpected encounter at the heart of the journey (no spoiler alert needed).  Make sure you see this exhibition.  For more information. 

On the left part of Siemon Allen’s massive installation Stamps V 2010; on the right Nicolas Hlobo’s Ndize 2010 (Xhosa name for a popular game of hide and seek); and in the background a glimpse of Wim Botha’s Solipsis 2011. Courtesy JCAF, photograph by Graham Lacey

Tokyo Stories from 18th August Cinema Nouveau Rosebank 

This is another film in the Exhibition on Screen series. It is based on a major exhibition at the Ashmolean in Oxford:  Tokyo: Art and Photography, (June 2021-Jan 2022) which covered 400 years of art – ranging from the woodblock prints of Hokusai and Hiroshige, to Pop Art posters, contemporary photography, Manga, film, and brand-new artworks that were created on the streets.  There are 4 showings from 18th August to 22nd August. 

The exhibition provided a fascinating insight into the development of Tokyo into one of the world’s most important cultural hotspots.

Life of Pi From 25 August at Cinema Nouveau Rosebank 

Another one for the Cinema Nouveau but this time from the National Theatre Live series. These films of live performances are always a complete treat and the Life of Pi promises to continue this tradition.  State-of-the-art visuals, puppetry, clever lighting and scene changes, all work to translate the magical realism of the original Booker Prize winning novel to the stage.  

And I haven’t even started on the exhibitions at the commercial galleries  … 

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2 thoughts on “The cultural events diary is jam packed for the next month

  1. Nice selection of event’s Liz – the months just seem to be getting overloaded with events to attend – who ever said there was nothing to do in Joburg.

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