AFDA students and staff innovate and create at Virtual National Arts Festival

News, 03 July 2020

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The National Arts Festival has gone virtual this year and AFDA staff and students have taken the bull by the horns creating magical content to populate this new landscape. 

AFDA Johannesburg Live Performance School Lecturer and Production Coordinator Rob Murray takes us on the AFDA vNAF rollercoaster ride…

One of the absolute perks of this job is I get to travel to the National Arts Festival each year with students open and eager for change and growth. Over the last few years, I have seen students blossom into artists, and then witness artists challenged by what they experience, and generally and specifically experience how they grow into the humans they are.

And then – Covid. And then the National Arts Festival cancelled. And went digital.

This year has been so hard for so many reasons. In terms of my students, my heart bleeds for them that they haven’t been able to experience the fullness of it all.

And then they go and surprise me. Buggers. They decided to go ahead and do it anyway, under the revised vNAF rules and conditions.

This is the result – Memory Laine.

Memory Laine is a pre-recorded hybrid filmic theatre performance made by four performers in quarantine across Gauteng. The story explores the collective unconscious, quarantine-dreams, and the deceptive quality of memories. This work forms part of the research and development for a larger live performance work to be debuted later in 2020. It was filmed entirely on cell phones, remotely in Johannesburg.

The AFDA Johannesburg Live Performance Honours Ensemble offers a two part exploration of memory and remembering in the digital age for the vNAF 2020: Memory Laine and Quadrantine. [ED – Quadrantine has been cancelled due to proximity health risks in terms of COVID]. 

To get tickets, go to: 

Facilitator/Director – Maude Sandham

Editor– Tana Pistorius

Performance – Nicole Butow, Bianca Pieterse, Anke Snyman, and Jody Werner

Cinematography– Nicole Butow, Bianca Pieterse, Anke Snyman, and Jody Werner

Soundscapes – Nicole Butow, Bianca Pieterse, Anke Snyman, and Jody Werner

Sound Design – Tana Pistorius

They are already getting critical notices:

 “Memory Laine is a spectacular depiction of this melancholic distress, of dissonance between body and mind; the everyday struggle to drag yourself to the shower when you’re drained of purpose. The simplest activities become the hardest of the day…This short feature pulls you in and refuses to leave without a sense of dread. The sadness echoes through each scene, sticking to you long after the fade to black.” - Danai-Nesta Kupemba 

And then, also AFDA staff:

AFDA Johannesburg staff have also been hard at work for vNAF, collaborating with VIRTUAL BLACK OUT: EXPERIMENTS IN THE FUTURE OF FORM, a supported collaboration between POPArt and Fak’ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival.

From a live performance side, Mongi Mthombeni and Liezl de Kock collaborated to create Neighbours, a quirky short film about some uptight neighbours that find each other through song and dance! 

Nondumiso Msimanga wrote: “Neighbours is fantastic. I didn't realise how much I needed a laugh until I watched these two great clowns on either side of a wall!

Liezl de Kock and Mongiwekhaya are stuck in their flats in a flat world! Talk about flattening the curve- they exist in a world of 2-dimensional paper cut outs and they are the classic story of bad neighbours. In cutesie physical comedy, they annoy each other through the shared wall until, without ever seeing each other, they find a common sound. Then their hearts open up to a delightful 2-d animated world. If I sound like a granny, then that's the feeling. Warm. Like cosying up to your grannies chest to hear her laugh.” 

Tickets for this:

And I have been part of the collaboration that spawned the meditative and thought-provoking The Lonely Sailor Weather Report - an exploration of amphibious living. Anchored on stories of dissolving, shifting and stillness: far out to sea, where land-based networks begin to crackle and skip on the boundaries of their limited existence, our lonesome sailor sits, moderate at first, then rising slowly.

Nondumiso Msimanga wrote: “Then I swam into the malaise of The Lonely Sailor Weather Report.

I want to write a breath into this post

What a delicate piece of craft...

I'm breathing softly in and out

A puppet is wafted through a cybernetic world in search for something that I can't even name. Yet, it feels like whatever we may be looking for as we swim through news and feelings we've never felt before. A rest perhaps? A new way? A new world? The sailor is lonely, floating in a cyberspace created by digital stars and waves. The videos loop so at every episode this sailor's soul seems stuck in their seamless search among stars for company.

The puppeteers are magnificent when they appear to disappear even as you know they are still there. Another breath. And another

Tenderly, at one time, the puppet just breathes and breathes. It's so audible you become aware that you too need to breathe more deeply to wade through your own corona news haze.

When the puppet rests its long-traveling head, it's deeply satisfying. But, then the puppet gets swallowed into cyberspace and fades away.

No easy endings. Not yet. But, what a breath of fresh air is this version of the weather report of our lives.”

Tickets for this also at:

Over and above this, Shmerah Passhier has created The Eye of Rre Mutwa. This virtual reality short film is an Afrofuturist exploration of African cyborg identities, inspired by the mythical beings in Credo Mutwa’s writing. In this film, the viewer is teleported into the centre of The All Seeing Eye, which sees through space and time, transporting Albert Ibokwe Khoza and Patricia Boyer through history to unravel a rebirth of sight. Shortly before the world was consumed by COVID19 and two days after the country went into lockdown, healer, prophet and artist Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa died.

See it here:



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AFDA is registered as the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance, and is a private higher education institution which offers higher certificate and degree programmes. It is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) as a private higher education institution under the the Higher Education Act, 1997. Registration certificate no. 2001/HE07/012. Our programmes are accredited and we participate productively in the ongoing reaccreditation and quality assurance processes of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) to ensure the quality of our programmes.
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