Woordfees: ‘n Fees van Woorde

Woordfees is a smorgasbord of culture, in the true sense of the word. Heading down to the hub behind the museum, after watching an angst-inducing performance of Wild at Hoerskool Cloetesville, we sat in the dappled shade under the oaks, decompressing with a glass of wine – this is Stellenbosch after all!

It’s one of many such spaces at Woordfees. They’re filled with people discussing the things they’ve seen. While Katinka Heyns chats, live on air, to the RSG crew set up in the corner of the space, people like us meet farmers from Wellington and talk about the wild fires and the stellar performances of Albert Pretorius, Joanie Combrink, and Tinarie van Wyk Loots in Wild.  It’s a play that leaves one emotionally exhausted, and in need of that glass of wine.

An amble through the US Museum is like walking through a treasure chest of art, with exhibitions by various well-known and up-and-coming South African artists. Upstairs, arranged around the gorgeous circular balcony that looks down onto the ground floor, is Deur Die Bome Die Bos Nie Sien Nie, curated by Alex Hamilton. It’s an eclectic collection of a number of artists’ thought-provoking works. Just as art should be.

There’s live music on the breeze, coming from somewhere nearby. People are sitting at tables in another little nook. A food stall is serving up tasty lunch delights and a truck nearby is offering glasses of bubbles. There’s electricity in this air – the buzz of the arts fizzing in peoples’ brains, making them think.

At The Kaya, Bertus Basson guides us through a lamb tasting. Four pieces of perfectly cooked lamb, each one cooked in exactly the same way – on the bone, at 55°C for twelve hours, without any seasoning. Paired with four award-winning red wines, the point of this tasting event is to demonstrate the difference in taste of lamb from four distinct sheep-farming regions of South Africa – Calvinia (Northern Cape), Bredasdorp (Overberg), Riversdal (Hessequa) and Steynsburg (Karoo). The difference in tastes is astounding and, as Basson said: ‘Daar’s ‘n skaap vir elke smaak!’  I’m a Karoo girl, me.

Back through the US Museum, on the ground floor, Athi-Patra Ruga’s A Young Retrospective glitters and shines, with bright bursts of colour in various media. His pieces are mythical and magical, with an underlying sense of urgent examination of all the issues of South Africa – and the world – today.

It’s time for a discussion of what to do next, a perusal of the full-to-overflowing programme. Book discussions, music recitals, dance productions, more drama, or just a little sit, a meeting of new people, a chat with an old man we’d otherwise not have met at the communal tables.

And that’s what Woordfees is all about: it’s about the arts, all of them, and it’s about the coming together of people in the appreciation of them. An appreciation that fills the heart and opens the mind, and gets those conversations that are so important, started.

An edited version of this review appears on What’s on in Cape Town.

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