Silence and noise

I have been a fan of PJ Sabbagha’s work with the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative for a long time. His latest work, With Nothing But Silence They Turned Their Bodies To Face The Noise, does not disappoint.


PJ Sabbagha is first and foremost a theatre maker, and a dancer/choreographer next, and his work is often startling in its in-your-face demands to be heard at a deep social level.  The work is tempered by the directorial and choreograph input of Athena Mazarakis, and it carries her stamp as well.  She is no less socially oriented than Sabbagha, and her work can be as hard hitting as his.  The alloy forged in the fire of creativity between the two is stronger than the sum of its parts.

With Nothing But Silence They Turned Their Bodies To Face The Noise is gutsy, ballsy and demanding.  It is not meant to be easy or pretty viewing.  It engages with the silence of the planted forests of the Mpumalanga Province where the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative is now based in a videograph of a work which was performed earlier this year as part of the My Body My Space festival in five towns of the former Eastern Transvaal.

The videograph by Jessica Denyschen becomes the backdrop against which the present work is performed.  It makes for a richly textured, but very messy work.  The mess is deliberate and the design by Sasha Ehlers reflects this.  Our planet is a mess and the work confronts this as the dancers’ shadows fall on the video, as the stage fills up with paper and plastic clutter.  One is not given an easy interpretation to follow.  Sabbagha never does.  He leaves the audience to draw whatever it is that they want from the work.  Let your imagination run riot.

The soundscape by Nicholas Aphane is magnificent.  Running water, wind, crackling twigs and leaves are interspersed with Baroque Opera.

The lighting is by Thabo Pule.  The dancers are PJ Sabbagha, Athena Mazarakis, Nicholas Aphane, Shawn Mothupe, Loren Sookool, Francesca Matthys, and Nomfundo Hlongwa.

With Nothing But Silence They Turned Their Bodies To Face the Noise had a single performance on 15 July 2017, in the Main Wits Theatre as part of the Wits 969 Festival, Wits University.

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The Confessional, art at Absa

The Confessional is a group exhibition curated by Liberty Battson, 2014 Absa L’Atelier winner which had its inaugural run in April at the KKNK arts and culture festival held Oudtshoorn.

Absa Art Exhibition

The Confessional was conceptualised and created for the KKNK, and aligned to the festival’s overall curatorial theme for visual arts – ‘Greed gone mad and fear got bought’.

This theme draws on the basic emotions of fear and greed as characteristics of western-constructed morals that are closely linked to the seven deadly sins. Greed is one of the sins, and fear a driving force behind it.

In The Confessional, previous Absa L’Atelier entrants and finalists ‘confess’ the most-searched-for topics on Google in South Africa, expressing these within the context of each artist’s own greed and fear.

Participating artists include:
Jaco van Schalkwyk, Fleur de Bondt, Sophia van Wyk, Daandrey Steyn, Kai Lossgott, Martyn Schickerling, Pauline Gutter, Kevin Irungu, Sandy Harris, Heidi Mielke, Franli Meintjes, Peter Mammes, Lebo Rasenyalo, Andrew Mwini, Nompumelelo Ngoma, Francois Knoetze, Skullboy (Louis de Villiers) Shenaz Mohammed, Nina Liebenberg and Luyanda Zindela.

The exhibition will run till 4 August 2017 at the Absa Gallery, Absa Towers North, 161 Main Street, Johannesburg.

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Nijinksy’s War

One of the pieces I have been most keen to see at the 969 Festival at Wits University is Nijinsky’s War with dancer/choreographer Ignatius van Heerden.


Directed by Gopala Davies and this work starts before the audience enters the theatre with readings from Nijinsky’s diaries.  This continues throughout and makes the work very text heavy at parts where nothing else it happening.  It also makes for fascinating reading, or listening in the case of the audience.


Vaslav Nijinsky, the Polish Russian ballet dancer and choreographer rose to world prominence as a contemporary dancer in Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris.  In 1912 he choreographed, danced, and was filmed in L’apres-midi d’un faune to music by Claude Debussy.  This forms the first of three sections of the main choreography.  The filmed version becomes the background  against which van Heerden performs his choreography, sometimes directly in sync with Nijinsky, sometime using a mirrored or echoed style of the work.  This work was extremely controversial because of the sexually suggestive final scene of this short work.

In Jeux, a work choreographed by Nijinsky in 1913, originally for three male dancers, but performed at Diaghilev’s insistence by Nijinsky and two female dancers, van Heerden uses the opportunity to outline a brief biography of Nijinsky’s sad life in which he married and was subsequently dismissed by Diaghilev who had been Nijinsky’s lover.  He started an unsuccessful dance company of his own.  During World War I Nijinsky found himself under house arrest in Hungary until 1916 when Diaghilev and other prominent people managed to get him released for an American tour. The stresses took their toll on Nijinsky and he was incarcerated in a mental asylum for the first time in 1919.  Although he lived until 1950, he never danced again publicly and he spent the rest of his life in and out of mental institutions.

The third section of the work loosely looking at Le Sacre du Printemps (1913) to music by Igor Stravinsky is about Ignatius van Heerden and his homage to Vaslav Nijinsky.

The work is rich and one cannot possibly absorb it all in just one viewing.  It is one of the works which won a Standard Bank Ovation at the 2017 National Arts Festival.  I saw it at the 969 Festival at Wits University, curated by Gita Pather.

There are, in my opinion, no superlatives great enough for this work.  I give it a resounding 10/10 and am very, very sorry that I am not available to see it for the second performance at this festival.



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High art and popular music

So the 969 Festival at Wits University is underway. So named because it is 969 km from Grahamstown, the festival gives legs to some of the productions from the National Arts Festival.

Gita Pather is the curator of the 969 Festival and it opened with high art, “Vacuum”, a startlingly different contemporary art piece performed by two naked men, lit into a screen with neon lights. Most people loved the artistry and cleverness, which was undeniable in its presence. I found it a tad boring although it was only 25 minutes long.

Vacuum 1

The Swiss arts journalist, Pierre Lapori, says “With his new show, Philippe Sair continues with his exploration of visual arts on stage.  Neon lights set in black crates are manipulated on stage in a way that serves to sculpt light in spectacular shades of black and grey.”

Vacuum 2

The two dancer/choreographers were Philippe Chasson and Lazer Huete (the latter in Johannesburg only).    Much of it was performed in silence, but in the credits we find “What Power Art Thou” from Henry Purcell’s King Arthur.

Altogther more in line with my personal comfort zone was the music piece after this, “Dikelo (guitar and vocals) and Bongile (flute and vocals)” brought us some easy listening with a talented quartet.  Only the vocal duo were acknowledged in the programme. This is a pity because both the bass and the percussion were superb.


The 969 Festival runs until Sunday 30 July 2017 and features some of the best works of the Grahamstown Festival.


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The Accusation, book review

Some time back I read about the challenge to read a book from every country in the world, and it was with that in mind that I started reading The Accusation:  Forbidden stories from inside North Korea, by Bandi.


Bandi is the pseudonym for a North Korean official writer.  It means “firefly” – a light that shines in the darkness.  Between 1989 and 1995 Bandi secretively wrote stories criticising the state.  As one will get from reading the seven stories in The Accusation, the very act of writing them is enough to have one killed.  The stories were only smuggled out of North Korea in 2013, translated to English by Deborah Smith and now published.

The seven stories are remarkably similar in their analysis of how accidents of birth determine the fate of characters who are dissimilar in status, class and circumstance.  I found the stories quite harrowing to read and needed a few days respite between each one.  No one in North Korea is immune to the threat of being accused of  antirevolutionary crimes.  All the characters come to learn, despite brainwashing to the contrary, that the state of North Korea is evil.

It is a very sobering read for people used to the freedoms of western democracy, and it explains much of North Korea as is currently functions.

  • Title: The Accusation
  • Sub-title:  Forbidden stories from inside North Korea
  • Author:  Bandi
  • Publisher:  Serpent’s Tail (Distributed by Jonathan Ball in South Africa)
  • Year:  2017
  • Recommended selling price R255
  • ISBN: 978 1781258712
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Lies we believe about God

Never one to back away from controversy, and having recently see the movie of The Shack, based on the book by Wm. Paul Young, I was eager to read his latest book, Lies We believe about God.

LIES book cover.png
Some people who are offended by the theology in Lies We Believe About God suggest that it starts with the yin/yang on the cover.  I think that is stretching it somewhat. However, I exert my own warnings about the departure from mainstream Christian doctrine expressed in Young’s book.

I do encourage Christians to think for themselves, but so few have a comprehensive grasp of what Christianity actually teaches.  We really should bring catechism classes back.

Young makes Christianity comfortable and popular.  He states that everyone is already reconciled to God.  This is a heresy known as universalism in which there is the belief that God saves all people or creatures in the entire universe.  There are a lot of scriptures which counter this heresy.  Matthew 25:46 talks of eternal punishment and eternal life.  Mark 3:29 speaks of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit being the unforgivable sin.  2 Peter 3:7 speaks about day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.  Revelation 20:10 speaks of the devil being thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone.

Heresy is nothing new.  Most of the early church councils dealt with various heresies.  The way of cults is to denounce traditional theology and then to replace them with new teachings, usually beliefs that contradict scripture.  It is usually not blatant,  and the lies are woven in with truths.   Sometimes people are affirmed for having knowledge other Christians stuck with traditional theology don’t have or refuse to see.  No wonder some people are attracted to heresy.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 addresses those who will not endure sound doctrine, but choose teachers who will turn their ears from the truth.

I certainly think that this is a great book for mature Christians to be reading, discussing, debating, thinking and talking about.  Perhaps use it as a tool for learning sound orthodox doctrine in cell groups, bible studies and prayer gatherings.  But please be aware at all times that much of it is heresy and it needs careful and prayerful reflection.

  • Title: Lies We Believe About God
  • Author: William Paul Young
  • Publisher:  Simon & Shuster UK
  • Distributed in South Africa by:  Jonathan Ball Publishers
  • Date:  April 2017
  • Recommended selling price:  R270
  • ISBN: 978 1 4711 5239 9




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SodaStream for our environment

Please consider NOT using single use plastic bottles wherever you can.

Press release below:

SodaStream Launches new environmental campaign featuring The Big Bang Theory’s Mayim Bialik and Game of Thrones’ Kristian Nairn

The Homoschlepians highlights the devastating effect of single-use plastic bottles on the environment

Soda Stream.png

SodaStream has turn the spotlight on humanity’s prehistoric preoccupation with single-use plastic bottles with a new environmental global campaign: ‘The Homoschlepiens’. The video, released globally today on, features Mayim Bialik (Dr Amy Farrah Fowler) from the hit TV series The Big Bang Theory and Kristian Nairn, (Hodor) of the cult series Game of Thrones. The video aims to raise awareness about the devastating effect that single-use plastic bottles are having on the environment.

Set in the future, ‘The Homoschlepiens’ features Mayim Bialik as an anthropologist, recalling her first encounter with a Homoschlepien, played by Kristian Nairn. The story moves backwards and forwards in time to reflect the harmful reality of plastic bottle consumption, a habit that is hazardous to the planet and does not exist in the future. The Museum of UnNatural History featured in the video facilitates spectacular cinematic encounters between Mayim and the last tribe of plastic dependent species, the Homoschlepiens. As a qualified neuroscientist and environmentalist, Mayim Bialik understands the importance of staying hydrated in a way that’s eco-friendly.

Shooting of the campaign was brought forward as Bialik received medical advice to rest her vocal chords for one month. “This campaign has a powerful message and one that needed to be told before I went on vocal rest,” said Bialik. “More than one billion plastic beverage bottles are used each day around the world, the majority of which end up in our landfills, parks and oceans, devastating the environment and killing marine animals. Who will speak for them and say enough is enough? I may have temporarily lost my voice, but I won’t be silenced about this important message, the world needs to find their voice and say ‘no’ to polluting plastic bottles,” she continued.

The Homoschlepiens campaign was shot in Ukraine, on a set designed to transport audiences to a future free from plastic bottle pollution. The integrated campaign uses PR and digital to embed an important message while an interactive website allows users to discover the world of the Homoschlepiens and a more sustainable way of life.

“Our new video, The Homoschlepiens, shows how primitive it is to hydrate with single-use plastic bottles that pollute our Earth,” explains Daniel Birnbaum, Chief Executive Officer of SodaStream. “It’s easy and economical to enjoy water and delicious sparkling drinks made from tap water at home and without having to pollute the planet. Using disposable plastic bottles is a prehistoric habit that belongs to the past; it’s high time for the world to evolve and create a better future for our children.”

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