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Pro Helvetia Johannesburg celebrates 20 years

Mapping future paths at CROSSROADS

We start our 20th anniversary year in Southern Africa with a special contingent of arts professionals from our sub-Saharan network present at CROSSROADS in Basel and Geneva from February 8 – 10. It comprises a multi-disciplinary arts programme, a conference organised by the Knowledge-Learning-Culture Division of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and theme-based panel discussions.

The event aims to bring into focus and embody some fundamental questions around the rationale for an entity like Pro Helvetia Johannesburg: What impact does cultural exchange and international networks have? What roles does art and culture play in processes of societal change, both in Switzerland and globally?

The conference component features a number of important voices from our region alongside counterparts from the Middle East – North Africa, South Asia and Switzerland:

  • Lineo Segoete, the director of the Be re ne re Literary Festival in Lesotho, and part of the Another Roadmap network joins a panel exploring questions that “no-one wants to talk about”
  • Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, who is one of the drivers of the Another Roadmap network supported by Pro Helvetia Johannesburg through our SDC financed regional arts programme, talks about the uncomfortable points of intersection between art, politics and power.
  • Mantse Aryeequaye, director of the Chale Wote Festival in Accra, Ghana, participates in a discussion about the position and role of independent art spaces,
  • Jamal Nxedlana, cofounder of the itinerant arts collective CUSS and the creative platform Bubblegum Club, contributes to a discussion about the possibilities and limits presented by digital technology for the artistic field

Nxedlana and CUSS also curate the Mzantsi Club Night component of the cultural programme attached to the conference, including:

  • artist and singer Manthe Ribane collaborating with Swiss duo Kami Awori, performing minimalistic electro soul merged with hip-hop and Afro-Caribbean beats,
  • queer performance duo extraordinaire FAKA comprised of Fela Gucci and Desire Marea,
  • the duo Dirty Paraffin, consisting of beat craftsman Dokta SpiZee and renowned rapper Okmalumkoolkat,
  • and DJ Lag, a giant from the South African house scene, is flown in to celebrate the country’s Gqom house variety together with DJ Prie Nkosazana.

The Centre for African Studies curates a jazz programme which features a selection of exceptional talent from the younger generation of contemporary jazz from South Africa, collaborating with an exceptional constellation of Swiss musicians, many of whom are now also veterans of the South African scene through the programming of Pro Helvetia Johannesburg:

  • rising star, pianist Thandi Ntuli leads a sextet which includes Florian Egli, Domin Egli, Andreas Tschopp and Martina Berger.
  • past Pro Helvetia artist in residence, drummer Kesivan Naidoo leads the formation Zachusa featuring Swiss piano maestro Malcolm Braf and Larry Grenadier on bass.
  • guitarist Vuma Levin, currently on a Pro Helvetia residency in Lausanne, collaborates with upcoming Swiss artist in residence in South Africa Benedikt Reising, Baenz Oester.
  • trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni (also a past Pro Helvetia artist in residence) producers an iteration of the Afrikan Freedom Ensemble together with Kesivan Naidoo, Ganesh Geymeier (tenor saxophone) and Sebastian Schuster (bass).

The programme also features a rich collection of video, theatre and performance art:

  • Ntando Cele, South African theatre and performance artist now based in Bern, performs «Black Off», an exploration of racism that is by turns surgical and hilarious.
  • Berlin based visual artist Lerato Shadi (also a Pro Helvetia artist in residence in 2010) realises the performance piece «Basupa Tsela» linked to a video programme curated by Kadiatou Diallo of SPARCK, a long-time partner of Pro Helvetia Johannesburg and curator-in-residence in Basel in 2016.
  • the collaborative project Pink Dollar arising from the 2016 residency of theatre director Antje Schupp, working with choreographer, Kieron Jina, performance poet Anelisa Stuurman, and DJ and visual artist Mbali Mdluli.

Finally, the on-line project of Mats Staub (who staged the Johannesburg edition of the project 21 – Memories of Growing Up in Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Johannesburg last year) explores the professional turning points in the lives of former Pro Helvetia artists in residence from South Africa, Egypt, India and Switzerland.

For more info about the programme and registration details, go here.