Something for everyone at the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival.

Posted: April 9, 2009 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

First published in The Business Day:  The Weekender, 4 April ’09

The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK)is celebrating its 15th year and with more events than ever, the biggest headache for the festive goer lies in deciding which performances to attend.

Since the festival’s inauguration in 1995, it has been a platform for more than 2730 productions, totalling ticket sales of R1786m.  Whilst it is still mostly Afrikaans speakers that make up the majority of its visitors, the festival today has a large number of theatre, music and visual art installations that will break language barriers.

One of the festival’s highlights took place in 2001 when Nelson Mandela visited KKNK and said the festival is part of the ‘African Renaissance’.

This year’s KKNK, as always, focuses on theatre, music and visual arts.  Theatre critics and those in the know have already named their ‘must see’ productions.  Some of these highlights include: The Magnet Theatre’s Every Year, every Day I am walking, which is a stirring account of the imprint left on the human psyche by the recent xenophobia; theatre legend Sandra Prinsloo in Die Naaimasjien which won the 2008 Nagtegaal text prize; Schalk Schoombie’s much talked about Samoerai, which dissolves the distinction between dramatic fiction, reality and the news; Blou Uur; and David Kramer’s Ballade van Koos Sas.  

The jam-packed festival programme includes children’s theatre and creative workshops, such as the ceramic workshop, that will keep the little people out of trouble.  Adults that are keen to create something of their own may book for any of the photography, painting or writing workshops on offer.

Site-specific art, such as Spier’s Infecting the City, which took place in Cape Town earlier this year, is taking South Africa by storm.   The KKNK is collaborating with one of Europe’s major festival of site-specific art and performance, the Oerol festival, which takes place on the island of Terschelling on the North Sea, to showcase the unique Karoo landscape as a canvas and stage. These site-specific works are called Oudtshoorn Oraloor and visitors will find outdoor installations and street theatre in unexpected places such as the production of Salto Bitale, which takes place 14 metres above the ground.  Ararat is another much anticipated, site-specific theatre piece that will be created by a leading Dutch director and composer team in collaboration with a South African cast,

The visitor looking for a spiritual experience can book for the much acclaimed Jericho!, which is a musical rendition of the biblical story featuring Anna-Mart van der Merwe, or take time out to ponder the relationship between life and nature whilst walking through a labyrinth. The Pro Cantu Youth Choir will sing the South African première of Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Passio (St. John Passion) during the Easter weekend.

Other stage productions that will be seen at the festival for the first time include: Heart of Sand, a setting of Federico Lorca’s poetry by South African composer Robert Jeffrey, with Flamenco music and dance by the La Rosa Spanish Dance Theatre; Malika Ndlovu’s  Sister Breyani, a tragic comedy;  Bloedbroers, a translation of Athol Fugard’s The Blood Knot, directed by Zane Meas; and Die Groen Ghoen, which is physical theatre with an environmental message featuring Gys de Villiers and Oscar Petersen.

The KKNK is famous for its open-minded attitude to somewhat risqué performances.   In 1998 Breyten Breytenbach’s Boklied was described as pornographic and incomprehensible, and the naked men on stage during the production had audiences walking out en masse. However it won the Herrie prize of the year. 

This year audiences that enjoy controversial theatre can look forward to Sakrament which describes our current lives as ‘a Greek tragedy in modern costumes’; and 2-21, a musical garage-spectacle that falls somewhere between Hamlet and MTV and in which Francois van Coke (the musician) plays the title role and Hunter Kennedy of Fokofpolosiekar writes the text.  Fleur du Cap award-winning director of this avante garde piece, Jaco Bouwer,   describes it as, ‘a techno-abattoir for our holy cows’.

A substantial programme of music includes; a Mahler symphony;  exceptional choral and chamber music; Amabali Ethu, which is lead by Madosini who is hailed as the Queen of Xhosa music; and contemporary musicians such as Steve Hofmeyr, Koos Kombuis, Amanda Strydom,  Chris Chameleon and many more to suit a variety of tastes.

The Huisgenoot Musiekplaas will offer a daytime and evening programme, the Burger Tongelos tent, the SAB Hap ‘n Tap Feeskasteel, the Klip-innie-Bos, RSG and a range of other outdoor stages at the festival will present a wide variety of music. 

As always, MK-Kaktus rock sessions will keep pressing the boundaries of South African music till late at night, with bands like Foto Na Dans, Straatligkinders, van Coke Kartel and Aking.

The Klein Karoo National Arts Festival takes place from 4 to 11 April in Oudtshoorn.


© Astrid Stark

© Astrid Stark





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