To-gather: Portals Next
The «To-gather» International Collaboration grant supports the development and testing of new long-term frameworks and methodologies for working internationally premised on more equitable and sustainable dialogues between cultures.
“Portals Next” is a two-year [2022-2023] international exchange project that aims to initiate a sustained network of performing arts residency and production structures, connecting to expanding networks of artists and curators attentive to local and global audiences. Focusing specifically on artist-led independent structures in Majority World countries, “Portals Next” interrogates the positions, strategies and potential for such structures to generate artistic propositions while cultivating greater understanding of how they operate and participate in local and international dialogue.
Believing that there is an argument for established institutions to work more significantly with independent artist-led structures, “Portals Next” seeks to provoke existing residency programmes, funding structures, international festivals, and government policy and programme to consider these structures as more prominent partners moving forward.
During a series of gatherings, the four initiating partners: Kaserne (Basel, Switzerland); National Arts Festival (Makhanda, South Africa); CamaguTshawe (Gqeberha, South Africa) and Sahyande Theatre (Attappadi, India) will work with a group of international artists as core programme participants to share work, strategy, and envision futures with each other but also with the broader arts communities of each initiating partner. Each gathering is constructed in three parts: a discourse mode, a practical mode, and a practice-sharing mode.
The first “Portals Next” gathering took place in early April 2022 at Kaserne Basel in the context of Kaserne Globâle, which included public presentations of international collaborative work emerging out of pre-Covid residencies. The Kaserne Basel gathering included presentations by the participants where they introduced themselves and their work, various discussion rounds, a public panel, visits to residencies around Basel, group performance viewings and joint lunches and dinners. Much discussion, exchange, reflection and socialising took place between the group around and in between these activities.
The second gathering of “Portals Next” takes place in South Africa in late June-early July 2022 across two structures, the National Arts Festival in Makhanda, and new residency space camaguTshawe in Gqeberha. The first co-designed “Portals Next” residency will be initiated with some of the collaborating artists and will encompass the artistic processes of the artists and offer further study of the residency design by the project collaborators present. Lectures, practice sharing and performances by project collaborators will be curated by artistic director Rucera Seethal, extending aspects of “Portals Next” to a broader audience at the National Arts Festival.
ABOUT THE PARTNERS
camaguTshawe is founded and led by the artist, Boyzie Cekwana, This is a new place that is envisioned to play host to artists in a yet to be determined residency format. It will have three studios, two of which would be suitable for small group rehearsals or crafting and a larger shed that could be suitable for showing works-in-progress. It is foreseeable that, from March 2022, it could host 6 artists comfortably. At a push, it could host 10 if they’re familiar with each other, or willing to share accommodation. It is a place for dreaming, making, contemplation and exchange. Writers, Thinkers, Dance makers, Theatre makers, Musicians as well as visual makers could find a place here.
The National Arts Festival (NAF) is a 48 year old, annual multi-disciplinary festival based in Makhanda (previously Grahamstown), South Africa. It is one of the largest festival on the African continent. The festival during pre-Covid times run for 11 days as a live event, from the last week of June to the first week of July every year. It takes place in the small university city of Makhanda, in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The NAF comprises a Main programme and a Fringe festival, and includes performing arts (theatre, dance, stand-up comedy and live music), visual art exhibitions, films, talks and workshops, a large food and craft fair as well as a well established Jazz Festival. Performances take place across the city in approximately 60 venues (such as theatres, churches, schools) as well as in various outdoor locations for the street performances. During 2020 and 2021, the festival took various digital formats.
Sahyande Theatre, Attappadi, Kerala, India. Theatre Roots & Wings was founded in 2007 in India by theatre director Sankar Venkateswaran with aims to explore new approaches to theatre practice and to develop new audiences through theatre-making in collaboration with artists from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The objectives and practices are connected to the local and rural cultural contexts. Theatre Roots & Wings started activities in Attappadi since 2008 by running open rehearsals, organizing workshops, creating and touring performances in participation with local communities, especially the indigenous communities which consists about 40% of Attappadi’s population. In 2016 with the need to create a sustainable meeting point, Theatre Roots & Wings opened Sahyande Theatre, a theatre-dwelling in Attappadi. Named after its location in Sahyadri Mountains (Western Ghats), it is a multifunctional, creative space for rehearsals, workshops and performances for local communities as well as theatre and dance practitioners from around the world. The theatre has a technically equipped studio and accommodation facilities for artists.
Kaserne Basel is the largest centre for the independent contemporary theatre, dance and performance scene as well as for innovative popular music in north-western Switzerland. As an international concert and performance venue, the Kaserne Basel combines the artistic avant-garde with current pop cultural forms. As a co-producer, it supports the ongoing development of independent theatre and dance companies and promotes young talent, both locally and intercontinental. From 2022, the Kaserne will have three studios for international residencies and a second rehearsal stage.
Rucera Seethal is the Artistic Director of the National Arts Festival (Makhanda, South Africa) since January 2020. Since January 2021, she is also a member of the Theaterfestival Basel 2022 programme team. Prior to the NAF, she worked as programme manager at Pro Helvetia Johannesburg responsible for the performing arts programme in the SADC region. She was the art director and production manager at ‘Chimurenga’, the award-winning arts, culture and politics magazine, from 2004 to 2011.
Boyzie Cekwana is a trained classical ballet and contemporary dance performer and self-taught choreographer and everything else. Rumoured to be one of the critical voices in the African contemporary performing arts arena and steeped in social responsiveness and commentary, his work is a fusion of dance, words, melodies, imagery and movement that stem from a quiet activism and protest culture in Africa. He is the founder of the new residency place, camaguTshawe in Gqeberha, South Africa.
Sankar Venkateswaran is a theatre director from India. He lives and works from Sahyande Theatre, a theatre-dwelling he built in the mountain valley of Attappadi, Kerala. In 2007, he founded Theatre Roots & Wings, and directed Richard Murphet’s “Quick Death” (2007), “Sahyande Makan-The Elephant Project” (2008), Ohta Shogo’s “Water Station” (2011), Henrik Ibsen’s “When We Dead Awaken” (2012) etc. In 2013 he received the Ibsen Scholarship from Teater Ibsen, Norway, for ‘Tribal Ibsen Project’ which furthered his work with the indigenous people in Attappadi. His following works, “Criminal Tribes Act” (2017) and “Indian Rope Trick” (2020) reflect the shift in his working context. Venkateswaran served as the artistic director for the International Theatre Festival of Kerala in 2015 and 2016. He was the jury member for Zurich Theater Spektakel 2016.
Hannah Pfurtscheller has been responsible for performing arts at Kaserne Basel, Switzerland, together with artistic director Sandro Lunin since 2018. She worked as a dramaturg at wildwuchs festival in Basel (2014-2017), in the programme board at Zürcher Theater Spektakel (2014-2017), at Gessnerallee Zurich (2013-2014) and as artistic director at Transeuropa2012, a young European theatre and performance festival in Hildesheim. Hannah Pfurtscheller was born in Germany, she studied Cultural Studies and Aesthetical Practice at the University of Hildesheim, Germany (2007-2013) and Dramaturgy at the University of the Arts in Zurich, Switzerland (2010-2011).
Sandro Lunin trained as a primary school teacher and spent years travelling as a waiter, alpine shepherd and technician. These led Sandro to the Theater am Neumarkt, where he worked as an assistant director for four years. From 1989 to 1997 he took over the co-direction of the Fabriktheater Rote Fabrik and founded the festival “Blickfelder – Theatre for a Young Audience” in cooperation with the Fachstelle Schule & Theater. From 1998 he was co-director of the newly founded independent theatre “Schlachthaus Theater Bern” for 10 years. There he conceived, among other things, focal events on the Near and Middle East as well as a focus on contemporary culture from Black Africa, which quickly developed into a festival. From 2008 – 2017, as artistic director of the festival “Zürcher Theater Spektakel”, he set new accents in the festival programme with a strong focus on urban contemporary theatre and dance productions from the metropolises of the global South. In September 2018, he took over the artistic direction of the Kaserne Basel and the Theaterfestival Basel.
Bochra Triki is an activist, independent curator and artist who is based in Tunis. Bochra has curated various queer feminist festivals in Tunis, Cairo and Vienna such as chouftouhonna and tashweesh. The festival’s programmes feature multidisciplinary artwork, panels and workshops addressing discrimination against minorities. Bochra is part of the Fearless Collective that painted murals in Tunis as a public intervention. Since homosexuality is criminalized in Tunisia with a three-year jail penalty, the collective cannot label themself as queer and therefore operates under the label feminist instead. Generally, the artistic work of Bochra centres around women’s and queer people’s rights. Apart of curating Bochra has her own artistic practise where she has made sound installations for a museum organised an interactive walking tour of Tunis.
Cecilia Checa Rios is the project manager and co-director for the artist residency Nave in Satiago, Chile. Nave is located in a previously empty building that was damaged by fire and earthquake. Only the facade of the building remained intact, the rest had to be rebuilt from 2010 to 2015. Nave is a residency venue and centre for performing artists in dance, music, body movement and performance, and research-based laboratory for experimenting with live arts. Nave mission is constantly changing since it haa to be able to adapt quickly to given circumstances. At the moment they focus on accompanying and supporting performing artists so they can generate content and knowledge. Nave is not able to offer any financial support but is providing artists with spaces, technical conditions and offers creative as well as technical residencies of 1-2 months.
Venuri Perera is a choreographer, performer and curator from Colombo, Sri Lanka. She is an independent artist supported by Goethe-Institut and describes herself as working on the periphery of institutions. Venura is the curator of the festival Colombo Dance Platform, and in the next 10 years is planning to build a performing art space to host artists and festivals on the family land she will inherit one day. Venuri is interested in finding ways to integrate local residents into art spaces and programming. Venuri is concerned with the question of how to decolonize the funding system in the art scene of Sri Lanka and become independent from Europe.
Marielise Aad is an artist based in Lebanon and the executive director of Hammana Artist House. She is a puppeteer, a clown and a performer. With her multidisciplinary Collectif Kahraba she has performed in many different places such as theatres and public spaces. Hammana Artist House has a theatre that holds up to 300 spectators, and aims to bring life back to the little village called Hammana in the mountains above Beirut. Due to economic and political instability most of the artists are leaving the country. Hamanna Artist House wants to give them a reason to stay and provides them with space and infrastructure. What is very important to Collectif Kahraba is to also support the local population of Hammana.
Vusi Mdoyi was born in Johannesburg and is a dancer, choreographer, the co-founding director of Impilo Mapantsula and the founder of VAP Dance Academy and Studios. Growing up surrounded by a large community, the backyard was Vusi’s first studio and people passing by were his first spectators. Vusi has built a residency venue that includes several dance studios, a filming and cinematography studio. The venue is accessible 24-hours a day and free of charge for the local community. He is already planning to build a second residency with several floors containing an editing studio, more dance studios and creche. Vusi is dreaming of creating an entirely new village for the community – an Afrocentric space that is centred around indigenous arts and cultural practice.
Matchume Nzango is a musician and composer from Mozambique and the founder of Nzango Artist Residency, which he built using money he made playing gigs. The motivation for the residency came from the feeling that there was a lack of space for creation in Mozambique generally. The residency programme covers a range of music and dance sessions as well as opportunities for musicians to build their own instruments. In the near future, Matchume is planning to expand the programme by offering masterclasses in agriculture so the local people can also benefit from the programme and grow their own food. Since residencies as a concept is hardly known in Mozambique, at first the people from the village could not really understand what this place was about. But after getting in touch with people from all over the world staying there they started to enjoy the exchange. For Matchume the main goal of the whole residency programme is to give young Africans new perspectives and possibilities. What is very important to him is that Africans think about how to rebuild their own community since the government is not there to help engaging with the issues they are facing.
Eisa Jocson is a performer and choreographer from Manila, Philippines. She was a professional ballet dancer for 8 years as well as became interested in pole dancing. After becoming disillusioned with the image of femininity both these forms centred around, Eisa began exploring Macho dance which is all about the illusion of volume and muscularity. Eisa centres her artistic practise around everyday gestures, body language and movement. During the pandemic, she left Manila in order to get more space physically and mentally. She bought a piece of land together with friends where she plans to build a residency in the long term. Before doing so it is important to her to get to know the place and the people living there.