Winter School
Winter School

Talking: Maybe not an art, but a necessity

Submitted by Anthea Garman

The Winter School — a place where people perform by talking — is an old, established part of the National Arts Festival.

But what is its role and value in a festival that celebrates the arts in all their glory and diversity? Is talk an art? That’s debatable, but what isn’t is that it is a necessity. As two of the Winter School talkers, Sarah Nuttall and Liz McGregor, say in their notes: “South Africa’s public space at present is rough, brutal, often polemical and increasingly subject to the rubrics of the ‘official’ line or statement.”

So that’s why alongside that very creative and right-brained stuff that will be going on all over Grahamstown, we’re doing the talking. And we’re focusing on some very contentious stuff: education, the aftermath of the arms deal and the border war, the legal system, our relationship with China and other Africans, crime, Islamic politics, taking stock of human rights, climate change and 2010.

We will also talk about talk, with outspoken blogger and public commentator Sandile Memela as well as academic Deborah Posel, who has observed how closely the vibrancy of democracy is connected to the “freedom to speak out and be heard”.

Then we’re going to talk about the arts: Brent Meersman will convene a panel of critics to talk about what they do in a workshop and he will make the provocative assertion that politics is theatre in his own talk.

And finally we’re going to talk about the personal stuff with Bridget Hilton-Barber looking at memoir, Riaan Manser telling us about his journey around the edges of Africa, Felicity Wood focusing on one extraordinary man (Khotso Sethuntsa, the inyanga) and Sarah Nuttall and Liz McGregor honing in on why being personal in public is risky, but necessary in our “rough” public spaces.

So if you’re need of eavesdropping on a jolly good conversation, the Winter School blog will be your vicarious vehicle to the discussion.

Anthea Garman is the Winter School coordinator