Not too long ago the children’s theatre scene in Cape Town was in the doldrums, with formulaic dramatisations of Noddy and various fairy tales the only work in sight.
As part of its 25th birthday celebrations, the non-profit Zip Zap Circus and Circus School is putting on a special production to commemorate its work in providing training in the performing arts and other important life skills to its 1 000-member student base.
A planned Mandela tribute is one more stop on a route that will bring centuries of history and heritage to life.
Talented young people under the spotlight, featuring scenes from the classroom to Cardiff.
After launching her career in 2015 through the Erdmann Contemporary gallery, Nicola Roos has gone from relative obscurity as a second-year student at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Arts to an internationally recognised artist with a particular niche.
One of Cape Town’s oldest neighbourhoods is also one of its trendiest, and home to a flourishing art and design scene.
Woodstock has undergone major changes from a seaside fishing town with its own beach in the 1800s to a mixed-race, working class industrial neighbourhood that survived the forced removals of apartheid, to one of the city’s hippest spots for food, fashion, art and design. The area offers a unique blend of community life and inner city living with corner cafes and second-hand furniture shops alongside pockets of hipsterdom. World-renowned restaurants, artisanal coffee shops, street art, design studios and art galleries are scattered throughout the area – many in revamped buildings now repurposed after the decline of the area’s once-thriving textile industry.
Situated in a heritage building that was once a bank, Stardust offers theatrical dining at its finest and serves as a launchpad for many an aspiring singer’s career. Singing waiters and quirky design elements, such as an upside down piano hanging from the roof, add to the occasion and furniture is reinforced to encourage patrons to dance on the tables.
Tucked away in the Buchanan Square business park, this restaurant with its relaxed atmosphere serves casual Italian food, tapas and craft beer and offers a welcome respite from the buzz of activity (and traffic) on Sir Lowry Road below. Its comfortable, covered deck area is perfect for lounging.
This busy, energetic family-friendly café is famous for its delicious range of more than 20 salads, light lunches and great coffee. It’s a small room with limited seating, but attracts a dedicated following of locals and visitors from around the globe, most notably Michelle Obama.
Palms Centre and Market
A decorator’s dream, this home improvement shopping centre offers exclusive furniture and décor, including fabrics, linen and upholstery, and is also home to the SMAC art gallery. The centre hosts a Saturday market from 09:00 to 14:00, with more than 40 food traders — free entry, free parking and occasional live music. You can also visit Riot upstairs for your fix of local craft beer.
The Animation School
This award-winning, specialist animation training school offers a three-year fulltime diploma, producing creative talent to compete with the best in the field globally.
A collection of three once-derelict buildings offering small, affordable studio space, free WiFi and shared office services for creatives. It also includes a residency programme for artists, providing them with accommodation (including a pinball machine) and studio space in exchange for selected pieces of artwork.
New Brighton Bakery
Enjoy the aroma of fresh coffee and good eats at this hidden cafe, bearing Woodstock's former colonial name, with a relaxed atmosphere in the company of books, African art and plants.
As the heart of the city's design district there are a number of art galleries in the area promoting works by local, international, emerging and established artists. Don't miss: Goodman Gallery, Stevenson Gallery, Whatiftheworld, Artitis and Blank projects.
A hidden gem, this quirky bookshop specialises in art, design and photography oriented collections of new and classic books.
New on the block, Hollywood Costumes offers costumes and props for the film industry but is also geared to serve locals heading to their next fancy dress party. A wide range of costumes and party accessories are available for rent or for sale, and the shop also includes a specialist steampunk section.
A space to make things, this building rents out space, tools and expertise to help DIY enthusiasts, hobbyists and designers with their projects. It includes a metal shop with welding and finishing tools, a small forge and foundry, as well as a woodworking shop and an engineering workshop.
A once seedy hotel, this restored pink building with a permanent doorman in bowler hat and waistcoat, offers a quirky, sophisticated selection of décor, furniture and art aimed at the fashion-conscious in search of a personalised boutique experience.
Once an industrial space, this building is now a modern, creative hub and home to designer shops and creative services; artisanal coffee shops and eateries; the SAE Institute offering studies in animation, film making and sound production; as well as small business incubator the Bandwidth Barn. You can also start your GPS-based street art audio tour of Woodstock here using the Voicemap app for smartphones.
The Woodstock Foundry
A former cast metal foundry, this building houses a small but eclectic mix of retail offerings that double up as studio and workshop spaces. With a small courtyard featuring cobblestones, bricks and plants, you can find high-end furniture, designer jewellery, a botanical florist, Tribe coffee, a hip hair salon or nachos and margaritas at the Fat Cactus. It’s also home to SmartArt, who specialise in converting any image into a striking, vinyl wallpaper creation at an affordable price.
The Beer Merchant
These are your go-to guys for local craft beer (bottled or on tap), brewing equipment, beer-making courses and a tasting experience dubbed “College of Beer”. If you can’t find your favourite local (or international) brew at the local bottle store, in all likelihood you’ll need to look no further than Beer Merchant.
Woodstock Grill and Tap
This speciality steakhouse not only offers a mouthwatering variety of free-range and grain-fed beef, sourced from farms around the country, but is also home to Woodstock Brewery – so you can pair your food with a beer that’s brewed as locally as it gets.
This trendy boutique shopping mall features quality craft and interior design shops, an eco-friendly furniture shop and a small book shop. Occasional food trucks pop up in the courtyard over the weekends.
Old Biscuit Mill
The Old Biscuit Mill is a magnet for throngs of trendy locals and hungry tourists who descend on the bustling Neighbourgoods food market on Saturdays. It also includes local designer boutiques, antique shops, galleries and some of the best restaurants in the world, including the tapas-style Pot Luck Club with its glass windows and panoramic views of the city. The latest addition is the Virtual Reality Arcade offering immersive gaming and entertainment. Arriving by cab or public transport is recommended on Saturday mornings when parking is in short supply.
The annual public arts festival Infecting the City returns to the city centre between 5 and 8 April, with performances and installations popping up in the streets and various unlikely public spaces.
The festival will present two programmes on different days and audiences may join in at the beginning of each route and walk from one installation to the other. They will be joined by other onlookers who happen upon a performance more spontaneously, while having their lunch break or doing their rounds in the CBD.
Infecting the City has been going for ten years, but in spite of its well-established place on the calendar it has resisted becoming a mainstream event. According to Leila Anderson, who with Khanyisile Mbongwa is curating this year’s festival.
“It has managed to maintain its very independent identity and its ability to surprise. It is not heavily marketed as a tourist attraction. It is very much the goal to provide a programme that makes exciting and unexpected interventions for the people who are using the city on a daily basis,” says Anderson.
The way these interventions bring people together as a temporary audience is a key dimension. “It is very rare in our society for people of different cultures, races, economic backgrounds, to come together in a shared experience. These performances create an audience who are temporarily united in being taken on a journey. in this case a literal journey because of walking from installation to installation,” Anderson adds.
Anderson and Mbongwa adopted a very open curatorial stance this year, allowing artists a lot of initiative to dream up their own ways of intervening in the city. Curatorial ideas have crystallised around the work and in turn the work has been shaped by those ideas. One thread running through many of the pieces “is the idea of participation, cooperation and trust” and the ways of giving the audience “a playful experience of inclusivity”.
A prime example is Spanish street performer Joan Catala Carrasco with Pelat, a performance that combines dance, circus and theatre, in which he brings the audience in and (literally) “puts himself in the hands of strangers”.
Another kind of sharing is offered by Iraqi theatre maker Enkidu Khaled, born in Baghdad and now settled in Belgium. He shares his stories and invites the audience to participate in their own storytelling in Working Method, a workshop-performance in which the process of making theatre is explored.
Local work more than holds its own on the programme. Indoni Dance from Gugulethu, featuring award-winning dancer and choreographer Sbonakaliso Ndaba working with 24 young trainees, presents Ikasi, a performance “characterised by explosive energy”. It is dedicated to the memory of one of their members killed in a random act of violence last year, and explores ideas of danger, unity and safety.
Trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni’s Born to be Black is a celebration of great South African jazz in collaboration with pianist Nduduzo Makhatini, percussionist Claude Cozens and bassist Shakeel Cullis.
Mandla Mbothwe, visual theatre maker extraordinaire, will present Ndabamnye no SS Mendi, a work commemorating the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi during World War I when over 600 Native Volunteer Corps members drowned.
The exciting programme of about 16 works sees one route followed on the Wednesday and Friday and the other on the Thursday and Saturday, starting at 11:00. There is also an evening programme and a workshop programme this year. See http://infectingthecity.com/2017 for more information.
There is still much to see and do in the city as autumn replaces the summer frenzy
The summer season has definitely given way to a gentler autumn atmosphere this month.
The cultural scene in the city is still lively and full of riches, but with a little more room to breathe and take it all in.
Infecting the City is a public art festival happening from Wednesday 5 to Saturday 8 April with daytime and evening programmes in various interesting spaces in the city centre. This festival is always a highlight and there are some extraordinary artists on the programme this year.
On Thursday 20 April Iziko will host Museum Night, when they invite the public to see their museums ‘in a new light/after dark’. Their advertisement features a wonderfully atmospheric photograph of the gigantic skeletons illuminated in the darkened whale well of the South African Museum, enough to engage anyone’s imagination. Admission is free and children are welcome.
Spirit of the Bush is a new dance piece choreographed and directed by Themba Mbuli, the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, at the Artscape Arena from 19 to 22 April. A live score by composer Phil Thurston will be an integral part of the ‘journey back to a time where it all began’. The dance language builds from sensitive trance-like gestures to movements of frenzied intensity.
Afrikaans theatre takes centre stage this month with an extensive festival of local work at Artscape and an international award-winning play in translation at the Fugard. Suidoosterfees showcases work made in the Western Cape from 27 April and is widely inclusive, with every theatrical genre from the one-person show to the ‘choir extravaganza’ and every level of performance from a new talent search to the doyens. A highlight is a personal memoir by Pieter-Dirk Uys titled Weekling van ‘n Wanklank (The Echo of a Noise). See www.suidoosterfees.co.za for more information.
Hemelsruim is a translation of the British play Constellations, to be performed with English subtitles at the Fugard Studio from 25 April. Paul du Toit and Tinarie van Wyk Loots play the two characters, a beekeeper and a quantum physicist, who meet at a party. The New York Times reviewer called it “the most sophisticated date play Broadway has seen” and asked, “Who knew that higher physics could be so sexy, so accessible – and so emotionally devastating?”
Painting is in the spotlight in several of the Woodstock art galleries this month. At the Stevenson, there’s a novel kind of exhibition called A Painting Today in which one painting is added every day until the full complement of 47 are on the walls for the closing event on 22 April. The list of painters is diverse, the idea being that they will ‘mimic the jumble of social media’. At the SMAC Gallery from 12 April Riot is the title of an exhibition of arresting paintings by a Chemu Ng’ok, a young Kenyan artist now living in Grahamstown.
Followers of the comic book universe, anime, gaming and pop culture in general, will most likely be at FanCon - Cape Town’s very own Comic Con from 29 April to 1 May. Geek culture will be celebrated at the CTICC with panel talks, workshops and cosplay competitions.
And in brief: at the Fugard from 18 April is a local production of Funny Girl, made famous by Barbara Streisand in her breakthrough film performance in 1968;
Folk/rock band from Colorado The Lumineers is performing in the Green Point Park on 26 April - tickets are R545;
and Decorex is at the CTICC from 27 to 30 April.
The first annual South African International Tattoo Convention will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 24 to 26 March, showcasing not only home-grown talent but artists from all over the world representing the likes of Australia, Germany, Ireland, South Korea, Spain, the Netherlands and the United States.
Art in restaurants is not a new idea – Picasso and Matisse were both known to paint for their dinners once upon a time. Sometimes, going to a restaurant is not just about the food but also about the pleasure of being in a beautiful space, enhanced by the presence of great art.