The annual public arts festival Infecting the City returns to the city centre between 5 and 8 April, with performances and installations popping up in the streets and various unlikely public spaces.
The festival will present two programmes on different days and audiences may join in at the beginning of each route and walk from one installation to the other. They will be joined by other onlookers who happen upon a performance more spontaneously, while having their lunch break or doing their rounds in the CBD.
Infecting the City has been going for ten years, but in spite of its well-established place on the calendar it has resisted becoming a mainstream event. According to Leila Anderson, who with Khanyisile Mbongwa is curating this year’s festival.
“It has managed to maintain its very independent identity and its ability to surprise. It is not heavily marketed as a tourist attraction. It is very much the goal to provide a programme that makes exciting and unexpected interventions for the people who are using the city on a daily basis,” says Anderson.
The way these interventions bring people together as a temporary audience is a key dimension. “It is very rare in our society for people of different cultures, races, economic backgrounds, to come together in a shared experience. These performances create an audience who are temporarily united in being taken on a journey. in this case a literal journey because of walking from installation to installation,” Anderson adds.
Anderson and Mbongwa adopted a very open curatorial stance this year, allowing artists a lot of initiative to dream up their own ways of intervening in the city. Curatorial ideas have crystallised around the work and in turn the work has been shaped by those ideas. One thread running through many of the pieces “is the idea of participation, cooperation and trust” and the ways of giving the audience “a playful experience of inclusivity”.
A prime example is Spanish street performer Joan Catala Carrasco with Pelat, a performance that combines dance, circus and theatre, in which he brings the audience in and (literally) “puts himself in the hands of strangers”.
Another kind of sharing is offered by Iraqi theatre maker Enkidu Khaled, born in Baghdad and now settled in Belgium. He shares his stories and invites the audience to participate in their own storytelling in Working Method, a workshop-performance in which the process of making theatre is explored.
Local work more than holds its own on the programme. Indoni Dance from Gugulethu, featuring award-winning dancer and choreographer Sbonakaliso Ndaba working with 24 young trainees, presents Ikasi, a performance “characterised by explosive energy”. It is dedicated to the memory of one of their members killed in a random act of violence last year, and explores ideas of danger, unity and safety.
Trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni’s Born to be Black is a celebration of great South African jazz in collaboration with pianist Nduduzo Makhatini, percussionist Claude Cozens and bassist Shakeel Cullis.
Mandla Mbothwe, visual theatre maker extraordinaire, will present Ndabamnye no SS Mendi, a work commemorating the centenary of the sinking of the SS Mendi during World War I when over 600 Native Volunteer Corps members drowned.
The exciting programme of about 16 works sees one route followed on the Wednesday and Friday and the other on the Thursday and Saturday, starting at 11:00. There is also an evening programme and a workshop programme this year. See http://infectingthecity.com/2017 for more information.