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Awards Morning at the 2016 National Arts Festival

Bonginkosi Mnisi performs in AFRI-QUEER, the 2016
National Arts Festival presentation by the winner of the
Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights, Drama for Life.
Photo credit: CuePix/Ivan Blazic - NAF 2016

Outgoing National Arts Festival Artistic Director, Ismail Mahomed, was celebrated at the National Arts Festival yesterday morning, in a ceremony during which the winners of the 2016 Standard Bank Ovation Awards were revealed. Mahomed, whose tenure comes to an end at the end of July received a surprise Standard Bank Standing Ovation Award for his nine-year commitment to the Festival, with National Arts Festival CEO, Tony Lankester, saying that he had "transformed the programme, filled it with richness and left a lasting legacy of excellence".

A 2016 Standard Bank Standing Ovation Award was also presented to the French Institute of South Africa and the Embassy of France for two decades of supporting visionary collaborations and exchanges between South African and French artists. The third recipient of a Standard Bank Standing Ovation Award was Gary Gordon, honouring his longstanding creative energy in South Africa's cultural life and his enormously significant contributions to the vitality of the National Arts Festival's Main, Fringe and Arena programmes.

Michele Belknap and Rebecca Makin-
Taylor in SILLAGE, the sole winner of a
2016 Gold Standard Bank Ovation Award.
Photo credit: CuePix/Ivan Blazic - NAF 2016

The 2016 Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights was presented to Drama for Life, a global leader in the integrated approach to arts for social transformation and healing. Their performances and public engagement initiatives explore, serve and grow the role of arts for social change. At the 2016 National Arts Festival, Drama For Life presented AFRI-QUEER, a production that brought together artists from across South Africa's borders to give a dignified voice to those who continue to be oppressed. Drama for Life has also devised and executed the Festival's 2016 Remix Laboratory programme.

The Standard Bank Ovations Awards are only given to new productions on the National Lottery Fringe. Once a production has been awarded an Ovation Award, the company is invited to propose a new work to the following year's Arena programme. Commenting on the productions playing the National Lottery Fringe, 232 of which were eligible the 2016 Standard Bank Ovation Awards, Mahomed said:

Artists at the Festival have been bold and have used their talents and skills to engage with burning issues in the most creative ways.

Standard Bank Ovations Awards Chairperson, Tracey Saunders, said that despite economic constraints and the general feeling of malaise gripping the country, the National Lottery Fringe continued to excite and entertain and, more importantly, provoke conversations and ask questions of us as individuals and society:

The new productions on this year's programme ranged from the staging of familiar South African texts to established international scripts, deeply personal monologues to epic family sagas and some ground-breaking new texts straddling the terrain in between.

Gideon Lombard in THE GRAVEYARD,
Rust Co-Operative's Silver Standard Bank
Ovation Award Winner for 2016.
Photo credit: CuePix/Aaliyah
Tshabalala - NAF 2016

Only one Gold Standard Bank Ovation Award was presented this year, to Rust Co-Operative's theatre production, SILLAGE. Rust Co-Operative also received a Silver Standard Bank Ovation Award for THE GRAVEYARD, also a theatre production.

Silver Standard Bank Ovation Awards were also presented to Artscape's ITYALA LAMAWELE and DIE GLAS ENNIE DRAAD (which were listed in the cabaret/musical theatre and theatre sections of the National Arts Festival programme respectively) as well as to Alan Parker's physical theatre presentation, SACRE FOR ONE. The final Silver Standard Bank Ovation Award was presented to DANGLED, a theatre production from ExploSIV Productions.

Standard Bank Ovation Awards were awarded to the following theatre presentations: Matt Newman's COCK, Sibikwa Arts Centre's CHAPTER 2 SECTION 9, Artscape's HENRIETTA WITH LOVE, Lebo Leisa's PALEHO, Bloom & Stone's TEASE! and Klara van Wyk's YOU SUCK: AND OTHER INESCAPABLE TRUTHS. Productions listed in the comedy section of the programme that earned Standard Bank Ovation Awards included Hungry Minds Productions' OUT OF BOUNDS and ExploSIV Productions's THENX PRESENTS AZA-NYA IS FIVE-TO.

Theatre for Africa's EBOLA and Uyabona Ke's FALLING OFF THE HORN received Standard Bank Ovation Awards in the genre of physical theatre, while dance productions achieving the same standard of recognition included Liquid Fusion's BURN, Moving Into Dance Mophatong's '...FEATHERS...' and Lexi Meier's FABRIC OF THE UNIVERSE.

Faniswa Yisa and Bongile Mantsai in
ITYALA LAMAWELE, a Silver Standard
Bank Ovation Award winner.
Photo credit: CuePix/Greg
Roxburgh - NAF 2016

The poerty programme saw one production, UJ Arts & Culture/FADA)'s FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF, singled out for a Standard Bank Ovation Award, with cabaret being represented by Daneel van der Walt's DANI AND THE LION.

Standard Bank Ovation Awards went to Neo Motsatse's THE CONCERT in the classical/recitals category and to One Shushu Day Artistry's MSAKI AND THE GOLDEN CIRCLE and Nombasa's NOMBASA in the contemporary music category. Kristin Hua NG-Yang's won the sole Standard Bank Ovation Award presented to a visual art listing for BIRD/FISH.

Standard Bank Ovation Merit Awards were given to theatre presentations from Umsindo Theatre Projects (10 DAYS IN A SHEBEEN) and Slindile Mthembu (MILKED VOICE) and family fare presentations from Well Worn Theatre Co (RAT RACE) and Outreach Foundation/Hillbrow Theatre's ISARO. Sibonelo Dance Project's dance piece ABANGAWONA (THE UNSEEN) also earned an award at this level. The Standard Bank Ovation Encore Award was given to THE DARK AGES, presented by ExploSIV Productions.

Breakdowns of the Standard Bank Ovation Award winners for 2016, by category,
as listed in the National Arts Festival's programme for the National Lottery
Fringe, directors and writers for each of the winning productions.

The National Lotteries Commission contributed R10 million to the Fringe this year, and assumed naming rights to the event. Says National Lotteries Commission media representative Sershan Naidoo:

The National Lotteries Commission is honoured to have been the principal funder of the National Lottery Fringe and congratulates all the worthy Ovation winners. The NLC is proud to have been able to provide a platform for the talent that has been recognized at this year's National Arts Festival.

Hazel Chimhandamba, Head of Group Sponsorships at Standard Bank commended all the 2016 winners:

Standard Bank applauds the efforts of all the individuals involved in the Festival and the organisations that contributed to its success. We are very proud to be associated with awarding those who represent South Africa's artistic landscape.

Gantane Kusch and Daniel Mpilo Richards
Standard Bank Ovation Award winner.
Photo credit: CuePix/Dani
O'Neill - NAF 2016

The Student Theatre Festival Awards were also announced at the ceremony. These awards were decided by a panel, convened by Jacqueline Dommisse, that included Lee-Ann van Rooi and Bertina Johnson.

The winners of the Most Promising Playwright of the Year Award were Namisa Mdlaloze and Pueng Stewart for the University Of Cape Town's FIGS. They were nominated against Thembela Madliki of Rhodes University for NYANGA (who won the Most Promising Director Award) and the cast of PHARMAKON from the University of the Free State for their devised script. Also nominated for the Most Promising Director Award were Sarah Nansubuga of Wits University for THE VILLAGE and Dara Beth of the University Of Cape Town for FIGS. FIGS was nominated for the Best Production Award, which was won by NYANGA.

The annual "Short, Sharp Stories" anthology was launched at the National Arts Festival this week. DIE LAUGHING: STORIES OF WIT SATIRE AND HUMOUR was edited by Joanne Hichens, who is also the curator of the competition linked to this anthology. The authors included in the collection were announced at the National Arts Festival and the followed awards were presented to them: Best Story was won by "This Could Get Messy" by Greg Lazarus, with "This Is Not A Joke" by Maureen by Gail Schimmel and "Angel Heart" by Kobus Moolman serving as runners-up; the Editor's Choice was "Learning a New Language" by Fred Khumalo; and "Jim Goes to Durban" by Anton Krueger and Pravasan Pillay, "Number One With A Bullet" by Christopher McMichael, "The Derby" by Ofentse Ribane, 'The Viewing Room" by Diane Awerbuck and "The Seduction of Ozzie Stone" by Stephen Symons were all Highly Commended. Earlier in the week, South African author, Lidudumalingani won the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story "Memories We Lost", which featured in the 2015 "Short, Sharp Stories" anthology INCREDIBLE JOURNEY: STORIES THAT MOVE YOU.

The 2016 National Arts Festival closed yesterday, following eleven days of presentations in all art forms. The National Arts Festival is grateful to the National Lotteries Commission, the Department of Arts and Culture, Eastern Cape Provincial Government, M-Net and Standard Bank of South Africa for their sponsorship.

The panel for the 2016 Standard Bank Ovation Awards included: Tracey Saunders (convenor), Lynette Marais (festival management representative), Adrienne Sichel (community arts / cross-disciplinary arts), Ernestine White (performance art / installations / cross-disciplinary), Lliane Loots (Dance), Samson Diamond (classical music), Gregory Maqoma (dance), Gregory Homann (theatre) and Atiyyah Khan (contemporary music). The World Fringe Alliance Representatives were Anneke Jansen (Amsterdam Fringe) and Julian Caddy (Brighton Fringe). Additional members on the jury included Mokoala Ndebele (Joburg Theatres), Rudi Sadler (arts writer / Naledi Theatre Awards judge), Heleen Coetzee (arts education), Johann van der Merwe (arts promoter), Steyn du Toit (arts writer) and Fiona Gordon (arts projects facilitator).

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