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Street Animals

Street Animals

by Katie de Klee / Images by Sydelle Willow Smith / 15.03.2013

I haven’t sat in a church since I left school. So it made sense that I should have been surrounded by school children, all neatly in uniform with lunches not, here for Infecting the City as part of Arts Aweh. None of them bold enough to sit next to me, though my pew was empty.

It was a relief to be in the cool of the Slave Church, away from the stifling heat of Long Street. And then to add to the calm, the soulful sounds of The Cape Consort bounced up to the roofs and all round the room to our ears. Their chanting songs have no accompaniment, but in between the singing there are readings in Latin and English, which added to the feeling of worship. It set the tone for the day: the fourth of Infecting the City. A day in which the program seemed to look over its shoulder at the transience of things. Mourning, perhaps, the pace at which the world changes.

As the audience spilt, soothed, back in to the street, we were met by a series of puppet heads of animals, beasts that used to walk the land before the city grew up around them. Today they walked again between the crowds and the traffic to remind us that the space we inhabit is always altering. They remained, mixed up in the audience, for the rest of the afternoon.

Animals

It’s easy to forget in the flush of an engaging show that the festival does not only span the fields of performing art. Across the City Bowl this week there are installations that we are walking past all the time. Chalked shadows from the morning sun, hidden kewpie dolls with messages on the heads and bellies, and Ben Winfield’s small figurines, which make up Please be my Witness. Winfield means these red figures to be a statement, small and red, on the extent of the child trafficking that happens without enough attention or contest in South Africa.

Take one if you wish, said curator Jay Pather through his megaphone. But then know that you become one of the traffickers.

Traffic

We were ushered down to St George’s Mall, past some chalked chickens on the pavement, part of Katharina Forster’s Chalked, these lifelike portraits will wash away in the rain.

Chalked Chickens

A circle of people was forming; the crowd enticing intrigued passers by to join them. Inside that circle was one of the most outstanding performances of the week so far. The Jazzart Dance Theatre Company’s Moving News. The dancers appeared up lampposts in full-length skin-tight leotards that were printed with headline news, their lithe muscles making the words undulate. The choreography reflected the obsession that society has with tabloid news.

Then twelve caped singers rode by on bicycles. A gospel choir singing songs about change, hope, protest and their aspirations for the future. Fleeting, gone too soon.

Bikes

The Widow, by Mandisi Shindo, haunted the space. A groom, dressed in white with his face the colour of a skull, moved from the grave to dance with his widow. His ghost almost suffocates her, until she learns to be strong and sheds her white wedding dress for the black of the widow. It is a celebration of the beauty and strength of woman.

Dancing in their Seats

After a giant game of scrabble with Guto Bussab, and a man hanging from a high rope in the dappled light of the trees, we were once again back in a church. This time the Groote Kerk and it was filled to the stained glass with the tropical sounds of Matchume Zango and Walter Verdin. Timbila Tracks is a video concert, mixing live music with a video feed, set to images of Mozambique and featuring Matchume dueting with a recording of himself. These wonderful, warm musical strains brought the sounds of a different summer to the city centre. The children danced in their seats.

The infection is taking hold, the pulse is quickening, the temperature rising and we, like inspired micro-bacteria, are the carriers.

Matchume

*Infecting the City ends on Saturday. Check the full programme here.

– VOX POPS –

Denver

“It’s great fun. I found it by accident this morning.” – Denver.

Issi

“I came out see the Jazzart – I wanted my group to see them.” – Issi, teacher from Arts Aweh.

Sindelo

“It’s nice to see creative things. I’m happy today.” – Sindelo.

Vox 4

“I enjoyed it.” – Nomzamo

“It was beautiful.” – Anam.

“We see a lot of things and we learn about them.” – Nosisi.

Faaeza

“So beautiful and very very sad. Everyone’s eyes need to be opened like this.” – Faeeza.

*Vox Pop images © Katie de Klee.

*Images © Sydelle Willow Smith / Africa Centre.

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