Would you watch an anarchic performance by a tap-dancing messiah on Greenmarket Square to celebrate the existence of God? Imagine attending a rite which attempts to heal the pain in Church Square, a place which was once home to the ritual of slavery. Or watching prominent Cape Town sites being transformed and revitalised, to pay homage to their important historic role.
These are just a couple of events which will take place as part of the Infecting the City festival this month. Infecting the City is a public arts festival that stages and exhibits thought-provoking and boundary breaking works in the city of Cape Town’s communal spaces. This year will see If these all sound like compelling ideas, then, do as the ITC team says: “Hurry out onto the city streets. Don’t be caught uninfected.’’
This year’s theme for Infecting the City, the third festival of its kind, is “Human Rite’’.
The streets and public spaces of Cape Town will come to life when talented creative artists from around the world investigate this theme through collaborative performance works, art installations, choreographed pieces and public interventions that “grapple with the knots, scars and wounds of the Cape Town CBD.’’
The works are all free and accessible to everybody.
The Human Rite theme aims to explore the city as a body – with wounds – and aims to heal these wounds through the transformative power of public arts.
“We live in a beautiful city with rich cultural diversity; a city about to explode with the euphoria of the FIFA World Cup. But also a city defined by over three centuries of oppression, the marginalisation of many people, and the suppression of their stories and their memories. Our society is marked by inequality, violence and division; deeply scarred by human rights violations,’’ says ITC curator Brett Bailey.
“All human societies enact rituals and rites of various kinds. Rituals bring people together, integrate people into communities, and define and reaffirm these communities. They are vehicles for healing, transformation, purging, worship, initiation, thanks giving, expressing grief or jubilation… Some schools of thought have it that the roots of the performing arts lie in ritual.’’
According to Brett, Infecting The City has commissioned a range of artists from diverse backgrounds who push creative boundaries to respond to the issues thrown up by the theme.
“They have been encouraged to look deeply at the social organism of Cape Town and to ask: what cries out for transformation or healing, who needs to be included in the fabric of the city, how do we amplify and liberate the energy of the CBD – the site of our Festival?
“Their mission is to refigure the public spaces of the inner city as arenas in which we confront our demons and attempt to put them to rest. To seek out silent memories and invisible stories and validate them. To look for what needs to be righted, and ’rited’. To broaden and deepen the way we experience the world we live in, and to celebrate our fundamental human right to express who we are.’’
The flagship of this year’s festival will be the New Collaborative Works, which are two large new performance pieces made by teams of collaborating artists from a variety of creative backgrounds. It is hoped that this project will be ITC’s primary tool for developing new public art forms for the evolving urban society.
Out of over 50 applicants, seven established artists from South Africa and other African and non-African states were selected to participate in this eight-week creative residency.
- The Church Square performance, created by Andrew Buckland, Athina Valha, Ibrahim Quraishi and Lerato Shadi, is aimed at dealing with centuries of denial and shame in relation to slavery in the city.
- The Dancing Jesus performance, which takes place in the Michaelis Gallery on Green Market Square, has been put together by artist Beezy Bailey. Described as “a brief, anarchic, Pop Art celebration of the existence of God in all of us, and of the possibility for transcendence over death, it brings together the tap-dancing messiah and two life-size bronze sculptures inspired by the crucifixion of Christ.
- In Imperfections, Two performances aim to challenge the collective apathy, to celebrate the city’s imperfections and to move together towards a common future. Created by Leila Anderson, Mdu Kweyama and Owen Manamela the performances will take place in the War Memorial, Company Gardens, and in the Golden Acre Mall. In the Company Gardens the artists will remodel The Delville Wood Memorial, a monument to peace that makes no mention of the thousands of black and coloured men – as well the women of all races – who served in the wars it commemorates. They interrupt the flow of The Golden Acre – once the site of a colonial reservoir and the city’s first train station – in a ritual celebration of the ordinary citizens whose lives leave no lasting mark in the wash of history.
- Also on offer are a Mandala for Healing and a series of experiments, alternative tours and “subversive naming rituals’’ aimed at the “Naming and Claiming of Space.’’
- And don’t miss the chance to become part of a collective Cape Town artwork in The Wishing Wall – a collage of wishes, reflections, opinions, photos, keepsakes and other titbits from the people of Cape Town, on the corner of Hout and Adderley Streets. Described as “a space for connecting, healing, venting, expressing, enacting, feeling, interacting’’, the Wishing Wall will give immediate access to the collective thoughts, desires, aspirations and needs of the ‘infected’ community. “It recalls those sites of conflict, trauma and remembrance where we lay flowers, cards and memorabilia; and the informal advertisement walls where notes are left detailing the availability of inner city accommodation.’’
Capetonians are urged to take something personal with them to contribute to this “temporary monument to the fleeting moment’’.
Download the full schedule or for more information visit www.infectingthecity.com. To get involved in debates around the issues explored in Infecting the City 2010, please join the Facebook group: Infecting the City Festival