Sanaa Africa Festival 2016

The month of May is upon us, which means that it is almost time for the Sanaa Africa Festival.

Sanaa means ‘art’ or ‘work of art’ in Swahili, and the festival is a three day celebration of all things arts from poets, musicians, fashion designers, dancers and fine artists around the continent.

The festival was launched in 2011, the brainchild of founder and director Nonhlanhla Matshazi. We spoke to the brains behind Sanaa, ahead of this year’s festival, which will be at St Stithian’s Girls College from 26-28 May.

Nonhlanhla M.

With Sanaa being in its 7th year, what are some of the new teething pains and growing joys?
The Sanaa Africa Festival was officially launched in 2011, however the first festival took place in 2012, making 2016 the fifth year it is rolled out. In the five years the festival has taken place there have been a few teething pains and growing joys. Fortunately, the growing joys outweigh the teething pains. The pains are those commonly found in the Arts industry such as funding, synergy between the artists, concept and platform. On the funding issue we have been privileged with the support that MTN SA Foundation, Mzansi/DSTV and the Department of Arts and Culture (to mention a few) have invested in the festival. The synergy is a constant flow of ideas, talent, innovation, politics and economy.  Each year is different with a cohesive concept and model giving the festival a foundation and structure to house the talent, growth and innovation.

Please tell us more about the theme for this year
The overarching theme of the Sanaa Africa Festival, which is “Connect, Collaborate and Create”, verbalises the intent of the festival as a platform.  This year’s theme, Celebrating the threads that bind us, is the ‘how’ or descriptor of the synergy within the festival; between genres, artists and the audience.  The themes are meant to give immediate insight and understanding to the concept and platform.   

A festival of this magnitude needs lots of time, effort and determination. Please tell us more about the selection of the genre heads and what you are hoping they will bring to the table.
This year’s programme builds on the lessons and success of previous years. It once again features seven genres – each of which will be hosting a dedicated programme of its own, through which they will connect with audiences in an impactful and meaningful way.  The genre heads are approached based on work that they have been doing in their genres and the need for a platform that showcases their talent and that of other artists.  In other words, genre heads are artists who are ready to take the next step in their careers and are looking for a platform on which they can execute. The pre-selected candidates are then asked to submit a proposal of what they would like to stage, the administration and costs thereof.  The proposals are considered and the proposals that have given careful consideration to the theme, artists and costs are chosen.  

Our genre heads for this year are:
Fine Arts: Rika Nortje & Daniel Rankadi Mosako
Fashion Show:  Wayne Stafford & Mahlatse James
Poetry:  Afurakan – Thabiso Mohare
Theatre:  Market Theatre Laboratory
Film:  Mzilikazi Kumalo
Dance:  Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative
Music:  Barry Possiwe Productions

Please tell us how you selected the venue for this year
This year’s festival will be held at St Stithian’s Girls College, a proudly South African school, embracing diversity and offering a distinctive educational experience. It was selected as the new home of Sanaa Africa this year for a number of reasons:

  • Its ability to enable us to tap in to a diverse, higher LSM audience with a greater amount of disposable income, thereby growing the paying audience of our artists
  • An opportunity to partner with the school (and its PDI beneficiary school partners) to reinforce the legacy aspect of Sanaa through a number of workshops that seek to transfer skills and knowledge, and create awareness of and exposure to the diversity of talent on the continent
  • Our resonance with St Stithian’s purpose and strategic intent: “Inspiring excellence. Making a world of difference.”

With the festival being held during Africa month, what is the overall experience you want people to walk away with? What can we expect this year that sets it apart from previous years?
Throughout the centuries South African and African artists, crafters and creative people have created works that reflect the dynamic quality of our collective creativity. Over the centuries these works have embodied some of humanity’s greatest achievements – fusing visual imagery with culture, spiritual beliefs, social purpose and politics.  As an annual festival Sanaa Africa wants Africa to celebrate the threads that bind us as Africans from across our beloved continent.  

It is positioned as a platform from which ALL cultures that have formed today’s Africa are celebrated and shared. As such, artists, creators, performers and communities are given a platform to showcase their creative talent. In so doing, the Festival raises awareness of South Africa and Africa’s cultural heritage.



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