22 March 2012 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Mad about Maboneng

The link between arts and Human Rights Day, and recognising artists, who are often activists who stand up to the establishment.

Image courtesy Maboneng Precinct

I started my Human Rights Day in the Maboneng Precinct with breakfast at Canteen (flapjacks with mascarpone and berries). It was a frivolous start to what is an important day, described on parliament’s website as 'an affirmation by common people, rising in unison to proclaim their rights'. Sixty-nine people died that day in 1960 and 180 were wounded when police fired on the crowd that had gathered to protest against the pass laws.

Although my breakfast was frivolous, the Maboneng Precinct isn’t. To me, the area’s continued growth as Joburg’s cultural heartland is, in its own small way, an example of what those protestors were fighting for: the idea of all South Africans having the  freedom to create, associate, debate and forge their own identities, independent of the state.

And of course, the arts have always been linked to the human rights movement; the health of 1 is linked inextricably to the other, with freedom of expression at the core of their relationship. Artists are often activists, who stand up to the establishment, tell untold, uncomfortable truths and question the status quo.

Image courtesy <a href=\ Image courtesy Maboneng Precinct

Art hinges on the right to freedom of expression and Maboneng provides a space that cultivates that right. This area in downtown Jozi is just growing and growing, with the latest addition to its mix of creative spaces being POPArt, an acronym for 'People of Performing Art', which is an alternative theatre space in the Main Street Life building. Inspired by history, ideas, geography, identity – many different things – the performers at POPArt are using this new creative space to say something about who they are, where they are, what they find important…

The last week of every month at POPArt features a fantastic line-up of regular shows. This week alone, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Wednesday 28 March is Open Stage Night, and the line-up will include a dance piece by Sylvester Majela and 2 excerpts from shows headed for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. The first, Finding Nemorena is 'a comedy starring George Sotiropolous and Lamar Bonhomme about a search for hope in South Africa today'. The second, Paul Slabolepszy's play Over the Hill, is 'set in the locker-room of a rugby club, starring Cara Roberts and Ashalin Singh'.

On Thursday 29 March you can spend some time with Shotgun Tori, while on Friday 30 March, you can catch Causing a Scene  by 'green' theatre activist Kyla Davis, who recently won an Arts and Culture Trust Award.

Art hinges on the right to freedom of expression and Maboneng provides a space that cultivates that right.

Saturday 31 March is set aside for balladry composition and Sunday 1 April is time for the Jozi House of Poetry’s Human Right’s themed session, featuring performance poets Makhosazana Xaba, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers and Vangile Gantsho. I am a big fan; I think performance poetry is under-rated in South Africa and it’s great that it's being promoted.

In the rest of the Maboneng Precinct, the jam-packed programme for the week around Human Right’s Day kicks off with the opening of 10 Years on Air an exhibition in Maboneng's new art space, MOAD, located at 281 Commissioner Street. It’s described as 'an urban museum and events space that will focus on problem solving design and large scale art exhibitions'. The exhibition is open every evening from 7pm to 10pm until the end of May.

The Bioscope continues to host Jozi's only music, animation, film and illustration 'mash-up night'. On 24 March, it 'celebrates the release of new local music, features a performance from one of JHB's most-loved live acts and debuts three new collaborative projects that pool the super-powers of more than 50 creatives'. Fire in Babylon also starts on 23 March at the Bioscope, telling the story of how the West Indies triumphed over its colonial masters through sport and on Sunday 25 March from 2pm at the Main Street Life rooftop, you can listen to international DJ Chris Powell, as well as regular DJs, Disco Yoquei and DJ Danger Ingozi.

Also on the cards soon, after her Nirox exhibition shutdown party, artist Hannelie Coetzee will be opening her new artist studio at Arts on Main. On Thursday night, you can get your weekly dose of 'Real Comedy' with Loyiso Gola and friends at Pata Pata. Eat your Heart Out, a new restaurant at the Fox Street Studios, is also now open for business with an official event to formalise this on 29 March.

Category: Culture & History

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