On a cold Saturday evening, over twenty people gathered at the school of languages amphitheatre in Grahamstown for a night full of stories, poetry and connection. A group of first years provided warm hot chocolate and delicious pizza before starting their exhibition; Folk.
Folk is the brainchild of The Absolute Truth, a group of seven first year art-history students (Julia Arbuckle, Azile Sibi, Muhunyo Maina, Toni Le Roux, Asephelele Shabalala, William Carpenter-Frank and Lauren Stanley) who chose to hold an artist run space as their final project for the term. This is defined by the group as a place that is run by artists for artists. A place where experimentation and expression take precedence over commercialisation: a commercialisation that is very prevalent in modern art galleries. They chose an auditory exhibition because they feel that it was an art form that has been neglected in the commercial scene for years.
The performance began with a French and English reading of ‘Bad Company,’ a traditional Southern African folktale about the journey of a monkey and a chameleon. Toni Le Roux’s effortless and cosy voice carried around the amphitheatre, the whole audience sitting quietly – shivering, hanging onto every word.
Next was a series of poems, alternating between isiXhosa and English. The poems were all relatable to every member of the audience; they covered a wide variety of topics like history, love and abuse.
Some specific examples were: keeping the memory and songs of 1976 alive, how women are abused and treated in this country, how love can leave you broken hearted and what drugs can do to people and a community. The performers were Bhodl’inqaka Gxobh’inzolo, Azie the Poet and Imin’esis’denge.
After each isiXhosa poem, a brief summary of the subject was given in English. Not a full translation, just a summary. This was very effective as a full translation would have taken away the authenticity and emotion of the poems.
The amphitheatre was chosen for this event because the group wanted to hold the performance in a space that imitated where stories were traditionally told. Places like your grandfather’s knee or with your parents in the lounge, a fire going in front of you. The amphitheatre fitted this description perfectly, and sitting there with the cold wind blowing, it shared a familiar feeling to that of one’s childhood memories.
The evening ended with a few words from the host. He asked that, if we were to take one thing away from the evening it was to remember, “Our lives in the end are a compilation of stories and how we tell them is completely up to us.”
Overall, the evening was widely enjoyable and brought together different cultures, races and ages in a celebration of stories and tradition. It allowed people to reconnect through something we generally all share from our childhood. It was a well-executed exhibition that was hugely successful in its completion, even despite the chilly weather. All those who were present undoubtedly will be keen for the next Folk-like event.