March 7, 2004 – Johannesburg: This year’s 4th annual South African Arts Festival (SAAF) reached further into other areas of the African continent. Africa is the second-largest continent in the world, with 54 countries, over 800 million people, and over 800 main languages. Artists attended from Kenya and Nigeria and as a result of the SAAF, artist activities are being launched in Zimbabwe and Swaziland.
SAAF Executive Producer, Robin Hogarth said, “This was our best arts festival yet. We are expanding the rehabilitation of art ability in more and more artists and in more and more places.”
The theme of the Festival was “Past, Present and Future in Africa,” with the emphasis on what it would take to create a new civilization in Africa through the arts. The Festival celebration took place over two and a half days near the end of summer in South Africa. The SAAF opened with a concert and was followed by a special theatrical feature, written by Chris Dresser, that sketched the history of Johannesburg, and some of the famous names that have lived there, including Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, and L Ron Hubbard. Other theatrical pieces ranged from comedy, to song-and-dance, as well as a special presentation by young artists. Later in the evening the audience was treated to a stunning recital by two acoustic guitarists called CH2; a piece of English comedy from UK star Georgina Roberts; and a magic show by Los Angeles maestro Stan Gerson.
The cutting of the ribbon (photo lower right) at the opening was administered by Ryan Hogarth, President of the Johannesburg Church of Scientology; Chris Dresser, Executive Director of the Festival; Stan Gerson, guest artist from Los Angeles; Noni Ntaka, daughter of legendary South African singer Blues Ntaka; Georgina Roberts, UK actress; and Robin Hogarth, Executive Director of the South African Arts Festival.
Two days of productivity workshops and shows followed: 26 workshops including drums, dance (formal and modern), music, painting techniques, poetry, screenwriting, drama, Kids on stage for Africa, “How To Sell Yourself As An Artist,” flower arranging, “How To Get Ahead In The Music Business,” and more. Concerts featured Kenyan praise singing, sets by a number of bands, impromptu compositions produced in workshops, and features by the Arts Festival House Band. One of the Arts Festival events featured the Festival band with a Kenyan singer, the award winning Soweto University choir, and candle bearers representing the 54 countries of Africa (photo top right).
The Festival closed out with a Gala evening on Sunday, celebrating those who performed and contributed. A major feature of the Festival is the number of artistic activities and groups planned for the future throughout Africa.