Fascinations: A South African arts festival on WhatsApp

The My Body My Space: Public Arts Festival (MBMS) kicks off on the 29th of the January exclusively on a dedicated Whatsapp line. It is certainly innovative. But in itself it is also a fitting commentary of the world we live in now. Traditional forms of art that required gathering in spaces have all moved online. The uniqueness of MBMS is that it has made Art even more accessible and justifiably so by using Whatsapp. 

The festival will feature over 70 works by established and emerging artists from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and the United States of America – making it truly global. This “festival on your phone” is funded by the National Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and the National Arts Council of South Africa. 

Among the many artists presenting is Kamogelo Molobye, a South African artist, performer, writer and lecturer presents an experimental documentary entitled The State of the Nation, that follows the lives of a family living through the dehumanising and violent effects of load-shedding within the confinement of a Covid-19 lockdown. Molobye says creating a short-format work for the MBMS festival is “the challenge of rethinking about relatable performance modes for inclusive digital access and engagement”. 

Fiso Shezi states that MBMS has always “prioritised local communities, by taking art to where people are”. For him, MBMS 2021 means that he will get to share his short-format artistic work with a mass audience right in the comfort of their homes, offices, workplaces and taxis. Emakhazeni-based visual artist, Stanford Lubisi, adds that “Everything is becoming digital, and the greatest part about it is that we get published”. These are only a few of the extraordinary talents that will be on show. 

Amongst the international talent partaking is a large number of artists from the African continent. These include: Samwel Japhet Silas from Tanzania; Tinashe Jeri from Zimbabwe; Mozambican choreographer and performer Janeth Mulapha; and Malagasy artists Judith Olivia Manantenasoa and Bary Andriamialison. 

The MBMS festival has also designed an exciting mentorship programme for young and emerging South African artists who will be featured on the festival platform alongside established national and international artists. There are 29 artists currently being mentored in a digital dance production process by Lo-Def Film factory and Phoenix and Owl Productions.The training hopes to assist these artists in creating impactful short-format works. The overall goal being to move more towards digital interventions,  and to produce quality digital content.

The dedicated MBMS WhatsApp number was released on 8th January. To access the MBMS festival send ‘HI’ to +27600110444 or scan the QR code. From the 8th January you can save the number, share it with friends, access background information about the festival and learn how to navigate the line. From 29th January the full festival programme goes live, making art available at your fingertips.

For more information about MBMS:

Facebook: My Body My Space: Public Arts Festival

IG: fa_theatrecollaborative

Featured image provided