Yesterday the National Arts Festival kicked off in Grahamstown for 10 days of theatre, performance, art and culture. While the festival is spread across venues and locations all over the quaint settler town, an invisible line separates the main proceedings of the festival off from the iKasi that spreads up the opposite side of the valley. As thousands of artists and visitors flock to Grahamstown to engage with art during Fest, this creates a lens through which to explore the turbulent colonial history of the area and the structures of privilege and oppression that have been imprinted into the fabric of South African society.
Semi-Gloss is a collaborative performance and video project by five artists that emerges from the mound of yesteryear’s Fest detritus – the glossy show posters that envelop the town in a skin of paper, Prestick and tape – which is left behind and forgotten when the festival is over. With coats of glossy paper, three lumbering yet fragile beasts roam the town, interrupting Grahamstown’s public spaces, disrupting conventional narratives and telling real and raw local stories: by Grahamstownians, about Grahamstown, in Grahamstown.
The work reimagines a shifting notion of the town and the structures which underpin it. ‘Semi-Gloss’ picks away at the peeling lamination on the ‘glossy brochure’ of Grahamstown and its festival.
Semi-Gloss is a public performance work developed by the 10 Day Men collective made up of Ayanda Nondlwana and Siyabonga Bawuti (Via Kasi Movers), Monwabisi Dondashe and Athenkosi Nyikilana (Phezulu Stilt Walkers), and Francois Knoetze (Cape Mongo). With music by Caydon van Eyck.
Photos by @francknoetz