Taking the passion for art worldwide

Nokubonga Mabaso and Dumisani Radebe from Newcastle Creative Network, with Colm McGivern from the British Council, sponsors of the exchange, and Newcastle Arts Festival Northern Ireland representatives, Peter Surginor, Nick Mack and Dave Lee.

In August, two Newcastillians visited the Arts Festival in Newcastle, Ireland.

A few weeks later, the Newcastle Advertiser caught up with Nokubonga Mabaso, the 25-year-old creative maven, on the trip and her passion for creative expression.

She said the Ireland trip was an ‘awesome experience’.

Describing the Northern Irish people as extremely friendly, Ms Mabaso said their stay in the idyllic coastal town was warm, comfortable and enjoyable.

“A beautiful mountain range, the Mournes, encases the surrounds.”

Making the most of lower rainfall, Ms Mabaso had opportunity to soak in the sights, attending art festivals, exhibitions and theatre productions.

“The arts and culture of Northern Ireland is very rich and we were exposed to a wide variety of arts and artists. We made connections with musicians, visual and fine artists, and writers.”

Ms Mabaso said it was exciting to be interacting with one another as artists from different backgrounds, sharing indigenous arts and cultures.

Her experience highlight was exhibiting at the Newcastle Arts Festival: Finding Context.

The exhibition showcased collaborative works between artists from both Newcastles, including ceramics, rock art, photography, video and embroidery.

This has set a tone for the remainder of the Newcastle Creative Network year.

“We are working on the project, >> Fast Forward Here>>, part of a larger project called The Power of Place, supported by the African Centre for Cities, at the University of Cape Town.”

The project examines prospects and life perspectives of youth in Khayelitsha.

This is done through experimental video research, where 30 people between 18 and 23 years of age will interchangeably become audience, interviewee, interviewer and crew member.

“Project participants will explore how to share the work with the broader public, as part of the process. We are very excited about being able to do this project on the other side of the country, thus making our impact truly national and international in scope.”

On a personal note, Ms Mabaso explained her love of writing was developed by a love of reading, cascading downward from a deep desire to learn more about the world.

She explores and expresses emotions and state of mind through writing stories and poetry.

“I have written quite a few short stories and some unfinished novels. I am currently working on self-publishing my book and developing a blog by the end of this year.”

Her interest in art developed from a young age.

Admiring literature, poetry and the creative imagination it elicited, she read copious amounts, learning more mediums of expression through school.

“I learnt how to play the guitar and keyboard, and joined the choir.”

During this time, she learned about famous artists and found amazement in the ‘simple extravagance of their very intricate works’. “So as I grew, my artistic expression also journeyed with me, and I continue to learn and become more interested in art.”

As her ideas emanate internally from her prevalent perceptions of the world, Ms Mabaso is inspired by her experiences, the books she reads and people she meets.

“My attention is sparked by a word, a conversation or a paragraph.”

This raises questions and thoughts within her mind, which she endeavours to find out more about, gaining insight until pen meets paper.

“With shorter pieces such as poetry and prose, I just allow my feelings to dictate my verses.”

Ms Mabaso is also working on a team project, aimed at taking South African youth to attend and showcase at the World Culture Festival, held in India early next year. This is preceded by the Township Arts Festival in October.

Ms Mabaso said patrons could expect a very full programme, including a fashion parade and workshop, organised by Buhle Mpila and Lee Shabalala, and Nyanyadu-based band, The Radicals.

“Workshops will be held by the KwaZulu-Natal Museum Services team, and our two artists visiting from Northern Ireland, Austyn Finnegan and Peter Surginor.

The festival features film programming, put together by award-winning cameraman, Thuthuka Zondi and acclaimed actor, Vusi Thwala.

Further, Maninzi Kwatshuve will host a theatre and performance workshop for local groups, where the NCN hopes to identify a group for continuous development, to showcase at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival next year.

The NCN remains grateful to South Africa, United Kingdom Seasons.

“The SAUK Seasons is a partnership between the Department of Arts and Culture, South Africa and the British Council.” SAUK Seasons identified the Township Arts Festival and international exchange project as worthy of support, capping off four years’ hard work by the NCN to raise the stature and significance of the festival. This comes at a time when the local art scene was in need of improvement, said Ms Mabaso.

She believed much more could be done to encourage, develop and showcase art, with initiatives like the festival encouraging youth to take charge of their own cultural experiences.

“I think that’s what sets Newcastle apart from all other towns in the surrounding areas – we lead by example. The arts festival has grown steadily since it began in 2012, and has made major headway in contributing to the development of the community and local arts scene. This is only the beginning.”

Bruce Douglas

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