You’ve heard of it before right, the Pull Her Down Syndrome where women pull each other down, seemingly because of intimidation or gross baseless hatred toward other women. But the exaggerated animosity doesn’t stand at the Vavasati Women’s International Festival. It hasn’t for the seven years of the festival’s existence.
Today marks the fourth Friday since the festival commenced this month. The works at the festival address systemic structures of power that continue to discriminate against women, under the theme Inequality: Seizing the Megaphone! The name Vavasati is a Xitsonga word meaning women, reiterating the power and strength that women possess when they unite.
The internationally acclaimed women’s arts festival annually takes place at the State Theatre in Pretoria throughout the month of August, with over 20 works created solely by powerful creative women from different spheres of the art world- in photography, music, choreography and performance art.
“The fact that the festival is in its 7th year, already that is growth alone. Actually the State Theatre has done an amazing job to cater for women. We are enhancing the festival some more now. The budgets have grown and the number of participants or works put in the programme has increased. Some women debut their works here and others find their voice here in this platform to grow and become the best. There are collaborations that grow from and within the festival. So women can work together!” says co-curator of Vasati International Festival Mamela Nyamza. Kgaogelo Tshabalala is the other co-curator.
According to Nyamza, the programme invites (through a call out) artists and companies to submit proposals each year for the month-long fest. “When we receive them, we have readers that are asked to go through the proposals and recommend works. We went through some of the works that they have recommended. I also being new in Pretoria, I met Kgaugelo Tshalabala who knows the artists in Pretoria, and asked her to come join me in curating. We have a pool for musicians, poets, dancers and actors. Some proposals were taken out and others taken in. I made my selection and so as Kgaugelo,” she said.
The team has something novel in this year’s programme, with the Open Market and Live Music segment that take place every Sunday. This is a lively setting on an open-air rooftop towered by landmark surrounds overlooking the arts complex.
Created and inspired by women, but the festival is for all- including men and young boys who are often perpetrators of the abuse received by women and girls. So attracting a diverse audience is important for Vasati International Festival’s impact in society. “We are continuously making an awareness of the festival. With the exposure that is out there, we have been loud than ever. The participating artists have been active in the joining the campaigns. The programme is diverse in such a way that it caters across all genres. There is everything for everyone. There are educational works, provocative works and family inclusive works,”says the choreographer Nyamza.
Inclusive and progressive works are synonymous with the State Theatre, which supports young artists and has opened its doors to stimulating uncaptured work. “Including other provinces nationally and other country’s participating, already it puts State Theatre as thee theatre for Africa. This aligns with our overall vision and artistic mandate to be a pan African theatre that is inclusive in its programme offering. Already I have calls from artists abroad asking when is the next festival.”