At the first Toyota SU Woordfees Artists Week (6-11 April) 70 top artists from across a variety of disciplines will have the opportunity to sharpen their skills, ideas and concepts under the mentorship of eight leading facilitators: theatre makers Andrew Buckland, Gcina Mhlophe, Mmatumisang Motsisi, Sylvaine Strike and Jefferson Tshabalala, dancer-choreographers Gregory Maqoma and Alfred Hinkel and the poet and performance artist Jolyn Phillips.
During the week-long programme, the selected artists will participate in a series of workshops where they will develop their own project concepts in collaboration with other participants and in different disciplines. These new concepts will be presented at the end of Artists’ Week as short performances in unconventional spaces in the middle of Stellenbosch.
Through these Flikker & Flash pop-up performances the Woordfees hopes to revitalise some of the empty spaces in the central town with light and art and to bring a breath of celebration to a town that has experienced extreme difficulty during the pandemic.
The Toyota SU Woordfees Flikker and Flash is made possible by the support of Toyota, Stellenbosch University, NATi, kykNET and local partners – Stellenbosch Wine Routes and Visit Stellenbosch, who are providing accommodation to artists at drastically reduced rates.
Leon Theron, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Toyota South Africa Motors, is excited about the project: "Like many other sectors, we know that the arts suffered immensely as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns. The hosts as well as all the stakeholders involved in the annual production of the Toyota Stellenbosch University Woordfees were not exempted from the challenges brought by the pandemic. We are truly grateful that this arts and culture extravaganza offers a platform for local artists to showcase their craft. With art being a powerful mechanism of escape as well as a reflection of our social realities, we hope that Woordfees audiences will walk away with a renewed sense of optimism."
Dr Leslie van Rooi, Director: Social Impact and Transformation at Stellenbosch University, remarked: “At Stellenbosch University, we are delighted to be able to contribute to the realisation of this initiative. We believe that it is an important part of our social impact to be able to support artists at this time as they grapple with the realities of Covid-19 and its aftermath. This is also how SU demonstrates support of its continuing collaboration with the Toyota SU Woordfees and invests in the future possibilities for the festival. It will also be a particular pleasure to experience and celebrate the performing arts with the greater Stellenbosch community.”
For Cornelia Faasen, CEO of NATi (National Afrikaans Theatre Initiative), the element of community is also of cardinal importance: “NATi is incredibly privileged and proud to be part of this innovative Toyota SU Woordfees event. It is exactly what our community needs right now: community. The cross-pollination between disciplines that is going to happen during this week is also going to give rise to wonderful creativity. If there is perhaps one good thing that has come about as a result of Covid, it is that the arbitrary colour and language borders that have kept us performing and working in silos, have suddenly disappeared. We have one artists’ community, and we all talk the same language, that of the arts. We speak the language of theatre and music and the written word and dance and the visual arts. Digital and virtual theatre paralyzed us (and taught us a few well-learned lessons), and projects that promise renewal of the creative spirit, such as the Artists Week, bring into focus the most important element of the ecosystem: the artists and their commonality with fellow artists. Unfortunately, 2021 is not the year in which we return to a theatrical landscape of big productions and massive budgets. This is the time when we have to challenge ourselves to think differently and creatively about how we return to theatre and to find a renewed energy for doing so. Because people are going to need us.”
Leo Smit, Senior Manager – Marketing: kykNETChannels & Content, stressed the interdependence of TV and film and the performing arts: “This project contributes to nurturing and protection of the bigger entertainment ecosystem of which theatres and the arts festivals are big and important components. Now, more than ever, it is important to take hands with our festival partners and to support new initiatives.”
Saartjie Botha, Director of the Toyota SU Woordfees, stresses the role of artists as thought leaders in troubled times: “The local performing arts are in a crisis like never before. Covid, poor leadership and a lack of artistic vision on a national level have left the arts in the lurch. To survive we need to think differently, and who better to lead us into different ways of thinking than artists. On the one hand, we hope that artists will be validated during the Artists Week, but also that the Stellenbosch community will be warmly reminded that arts and culture make our town a more interesting and better place to live in.”
The performance spaces and a programme will be available from 6 April on all the Woordfees digital platforms. Keep an eye on our social media and sign up for the Woordfees newsletter at the bottom of our webpage to stay up to date with festival news.