School of Arts

Humanities staff and students to perform at National Arts Festival

From left: Christopher Cockburn and Professors Salim Washington and a scene from the drama production, The Blue Period of Milton Van Der Spuy.
From left: Christopher Cockburn and Professors Salim Washington and The Blue Period of Milton Van Der Spuy.

The festival opens with musical and social activist Washington, who was born in Tennessee and moved to South Africa a decade ago to follow his research interests and to teach at UKZN. His latest works are inspired by the idea of Sankofa, the mythical Ghanaian bird that has come to represent the return of the African diaspora. While Washington has been influenced by master composers like Andrew Hill and Stevie Wonder, he also credits artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Winston‘Mankunku’ Ngozi as inspirations.

Washington performs original compositions and homages to other revolutionary composers, with a jazz style that aims to ‘contemplate the state of life and culture in South Africa, while supporting Pan-African consciousness.’ For this special ensemble, he brings together musicians with a Durban background whom he feels share his sentiments about music and life.

The UKZN Jazz Ensemble, which consistently produces individual and authentic jazz voices from its young graduates, will perform at the DSG Auditorium.

Mitchell will be directing a drama production at the Princess Alice Hall called The Blue Period of Milton Van Der Spuy. ‘Milton van Der Spuy has a few problems – and they’re making him blue. He really wants to complete his next poem, but he’s hit a block with finding a rhyme for orange. He’s desperate to finish his current painting, except he can’t find a way to begin. And then there’s the constant danger that his head might explode. Named after the poet, Milton is an artist whose talents lie, um… elsewhere,’ explained Mitchell and playwright Mr Greig Coetzee.

Coetzee’s most simple, and yet most complex character is brought to life by award-winning actor, Mr Francis Mennigke. It is, at once, a whimsical celebration and a playful mockery of Art in all its forms.

Milton’s not so intellectual brain has been filled with fantasies of being a great artist by his mother, who tries to live vicariously through her son’s meagre talents. Coetzee’s extraordinary talent for comedy and pathos brings out a character who is at once appealing and laughable, but draws one closer and closer.

Cockburn will be performing an organ recital titled ‘Toccatas, Adagios and Fugues’ at the Grahamstown Cathedral where he was Director of Music before moving to UKZN. The brilliant virtuosity of the toccata, the expressive lyricism of the adagio, and the formal complexity of the fugue make for a programme of strong contrasts by composers from different times and places.

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