Festival places women centre stage

Soprano Noluvuyiso Mpofu was featured in the second instalment of Cape Town Operas Lunchtime Concert Series, which, on Tuesday July 19, launched this years Artscape Womans Humanity Festival.

Woman Zone has partnered with the Artscape’s Woman’s Humanity and Arts Festival to celebrate women in literature, as the country marks 60 years since the women’s march to Pretoria.

Under the banner “Story Café@ Woman Zone”, the initiative, will offer the public the opportunity to meet authors, listen to discussions and share their own story, poem or reading.

In addition to aspiring storytellers being provided with an opportunity to tell their story at the open-mic session, after the launches and panel discussions, there will also be a children’s storytelling session.

Commenting on the initiative, Woman Zone’s Nancy Richards, says: “Storytelling is an on-going theme of the Woman Zone organisation and, by its very nature, is a way of preserving and connecting our shared or conflicting histories and memories. The Woman’s Library at the Woman Zone Hub at the Artscape Theatre represents books by, for and about women and, in putting the Story Café together, our aim is to draw people to the library while at the same time showcasing some of the very talented writers we have in South Africa – and Cape Town especially.”

The Story Café will provide an interactive space where books and their themes will be discussed.

The programme of events, which runs from Friday August 5 to Monday August 8, will take place under various themes: “Memoirs and Mothers” on Friday August 5, “Heritage Food” on Saturday August 6, and “Healing our Society Through Writing” on Monday August 8.

On the reasons behind having chosen these themes and what is hoped will be explored as part of them, Ms Richards says: “With ‘Memoirs and Mothers’, we thought of how women’s lives and memories are often inextricably bound to those of their mothers. Many of the authors have written memoirs and, as many of them are mothers too, their writings are living evidence of the power of the female influence, strength and spirit.”

Ms Richards adds: “Some of the writers in the ‘Healing Society – Finding Solutions’ group have endured serious abuse, and writing about their experiences has been cathartic; opening doors to healing.

“But writing is also a vehicle that, for readers, can make shared sense of what’s happening in the world, create awareness and give victims a voice, often for those with no voice for their experiences.

“For some authors, fictionalising their account is easier than writing a memoir, but each of the authors on this particular panel tells a very powerful story bringing understanding to complex circumstances, for example domestic abuse. Writing can also reverse the stereotype of women as helpless victims and identify where society has failed them. Healing does not happen until society heals.”

Authors and panellists include Phillippa Kabali-Kagwa, Ntsiki Sigege, Malika Ndlovu, Ruth Carneson, Bulelwa Basse, Jade Gibson, Elena Agnello, Lucy Stuart Clark, Nicole Levin and Cass Abrahams.

Says Ms Richards: “In total, more than 20 female authors will be sharing and discussing their books and words – written or spoken.

“The programme is also open to any new or established authors who would like to read from their book or works during the storytelling session. There will, however, be many more women – participating, listening, learning and sharing – from all around Cape Town and surrounds.”

One event that will be shared by women from women (and men) from across the city is this year’s Women’s Humanity Walk.

Says Ms Richards: “The third annual Women’s Humanity Walk, arranged by Woman Zone and starting this year at the Iziko Slave Lodge at 9am on Women’s Day itself, is a special chance for women to walk, talk and get to know each other – and each year the number of walkers has grown. As part of the 60th anniversary of the 1956 Women’s March to Pretoria, a specially created collaborative artwork, Wire Woman, commemorates all of Cape Town’s women – past and present. She is a giant, 2.5m high wire sculpture designed by Sue Kramer and Lovell Friedman and made up by a team at Street Wires.

“From mid-July, Wire Woman will be installed at Artscape, where visitors will be invited to decorate her with ribbons and labels on which they can write the name of a woman they would like to honour.”

This year’s Artscape Woman’s Humanity Festival was launched on Tuesday July 19, with the second instalment of Cape Town Opera’s “Lunchtime Concert Series”.

The concert featured sopranos Noluvuyiso Mpofu, Tina Mene and Siphamandla Yakupa, tenor Lukhanyo Moyake, baritone Mandla Mndebele, and mezzos Nonkululeko Nkwinti and Annemarie Steenkamp.

Ms Mpofu, who recently took second place and the audience prize in the International Hans Gabor Belvedere Singing Competition, says: “This series of lunchtime concerts gives people who are interested in opera and maybe can’t afford a ticket for big shows, the opportunity to enjoy the music.

“The series also gets younger people to develop a love for the genre, so they essentially help to educate and empower people.”

Ms Mpofu, a Rondebosch resident, adds: “There is a lot of creative work out there which address the challenges that we as women and people in general face daily, but then there is lack of support from our government to make these works accessible to everyone. So programmes such as the Lunchtime Opera Series give people the opportunity to be exposed to such works.”

Concurring with this in referring to the festival as whole, Ms Richards says: “These kinds of festivals are vital.

“In its 10th year now, the festival is an annual opportunity for women to learn, grow, share and narrow their divides. Woman Zone is committed to bringing women from all cultures together across the city and the annual Artscape Woman’s Humanity and Arts Festival provides the perfect platform for this.”

* For more information, or to view a complete programme of events, visit www.artscape.co.za or call 021 421 7695.