Making and un–making history at GIPCA’s Live Art Festival

GIPCA’s Live Art Festival, to be held 30 November to 4 December 2012 in Cape Town, features a range of work where history is made: bringing it into visceral focus, provoking its susceptible and tenuous nature; and investigating how it changes according to point of view.

Tabula Rasa (a clean slate) is a conversation-and-dance performance that follows the publication of Tossie van Tonder’s book NOBONKE, She of all People. The writing is an extraordinary telling of a life story; one woman’s journey towards the essence of herself as woman in racial intimacies, dancer, lover, mother, Afrikaner, white, strongly South African.

As a dancer, Van Tonder’s words often tumble into movement, speaking through the body. She will be in a dancing conversation; discussing the contents and journey of her book with blind performer, poet, singer-songwriter, braille-reader and editor Jacques Coetzee. “It was never an option to have a launch in the literary tradition. This book comes with the dance. That is how I wrote it over 21 years and that is how it is being released into the world,” says Van Tonder.

The conversation between Coetzee and Van Tonder will consist of questions and answers pertaining to the dancing body of the writer, the significance of movement where words fail the story, and a display of the idea of ‘a clean slate’ in the South African context. An edition of 200 signed copies printed in hard cover will be available after the performance at R280 per copy.

Edited by Sharon Friedman, Post-apartheid Dancemany bodies, many voices, many stories presents unique perspectives on post-apartheid dance in South Africa by South African authors. It is the first singular body of work to have emerged in any book form that attempts to provide a cohesive account of the range of voices within post-apartheid South African dance. Authors include Adrienne Sichel, Maxwell Xolani Rani, Elizabeth Triegaardt, Gerard Samuel, Steven van Wyk, Lliane Loots and Kristina Johnstone.

John Nankin joined The Space Theatre in 1973 as a stage designer and set builder directing plays in the venue’s fringe under the mentorship of Brian Astbury. In the late 1970s, he participated in experimental performance workshops with Chas Unwin, Jacqui Singer, Marcel van Heerden, Barney Simon and others; before co-initiating the avant-garde and now historic Glass Theatre with Chris Pretorius in Cape Town in 1981, a group whose ground-breaking work was informed by a return to Surrealism and Dada. Mama Papa Kaka was made in collaboration with Ivor Powell in 1983. It was part of the first program shown by Possession, a Johannesburg-based artists’ collective, associated with performance and installation. Onto this relic from his ‘childhood’, Nankin has grafted a new work, A leg to stand on, where an aged man is blessed with a preternatural growth – a huge leg, but only one, the other remains ordinary. This work will be viewed in Nankin’s own theatre on a farm in Tamboerskloof.

Moving from personal histories to political and subjective ones, Boris Nikitin’s acclaimed Woyzeck  founded on Georg Büchner’s famous play is about a military barber who stabs his common-law wife to death for her infidelity. Nikitin’s piece deals with themes of mental capacity and guilt on the one hand; and questions around authorship on the other.

Associate Artistic Director for Broken Borders Arts Project, Themba Mbuli’s Dark Cell probes mental freedom and self-imposed boxes and restrictions. Drawing inspiration and metaphors from imagery of  prisoners on Robben Island, the work is starkly set in an outside space against a stone wall on which original Robben Island images are projected. While this work may celebrate South African history it is also a visceral, alive, and brilliantly reflective mirror of the mind, what Mbuli calls “the worst prison that any man can ever be in”.

Part of considering history involves questioning the representation of information. The multi-disciplinary duo Common Sense is Dutch installation artist Stan Wannet and South African performance artist Leila Anderson. Over the last two years, they have participated in a number of international artist-in-residence programs; and for the Live Art Festival, deliver A Report on the Intellectual Tradition of Self-Generating Systems of Information: With an Elaboration on the Formal Syntax of the Absurd – a ridiculous visual deconstruction of manufactured reality and the collapse of truth.

This idea is extrapolated in Logorrhoea: The Emperor’s New Speech (Richard September) - a farcical exploration of the issue of social accountability amongst the sea of buzzwords, verbose jargon, and thought terminating clichés that pervade political speech. ‘Positive economic growth’, ‘The Second Transition’,’ Freedom is not Free’, ‘Opposition at any cost’  are all expressions which pervade public consciousness; but don’t necessarily consider the conflict that arises between popular opinion and political and economic policies that are out of sync with the needs of civil society.

The Festival ends with a look to present, from the future – an existential mixtape of thoughts, chants, dances and songs that merge multi-disciplinary mediums and genres in contemporary South Africa. 12/12/12: A Whole New Bible is a multimedia journey exploring aspects of the world through time, told from the perspective of a lost tribe of post-apocalyptic survivors. Parallel to the biblical story of the three kings, three wise androgynous queens from different tribes are woken up in 2112 from a post-world cryogenic coma, and led to a mysterious server left behind from the old world…

GIPCA’s Live Art Festival runs from Friday 30 November to Tuesday 4 December 2012 at various venues in Cape Town and is kindly supported by the City of Cape Town’s Arts and Culture Department. Performances will only be staged once and, as with most live art, viewing room is very limited so members of the public are urged to book early. Tickets are day passes, which will allow audience members entrance to between 3 and 7 works, depending on the programme. In line with GIPCA’s policy to make such work widely accessible, tickets are inexpensive: R40 (students) and R70 (adults) per day. These may be purchased online from A full detailed programme is available from For more information, please contact the GIPCA office on or 021 480 7156.

Photo: Common Sense – A Report on the Intellectual Tradition of Self-Generating Systems of Information