Expressions Sessions Festival wraps up to wide acclaim (South Africa)
THE first Expressions Sessions Festival – a celebration of spoken word, hip-hop, graffiti, break-dance, and innovative theatre – wrapped up at the weekend marking the first of what is hoped to be an annual alternative artistic offering in Durban.
The festival – a product of hip-hop activists Iain EWOK Robinson and Karen Logan, and the University of KZN’s Drama Programme – started in the last week of September with Robinson’s hugely popular Seriously?
The autobiographical piece uses a mix of narrative, puppetry, mixed media and hip-hop elements to tell Robinson’s story of his journey from Empangeni to Hip-Hop.
The play has been celebrated as a unique hip-hop theatre offering ever since it first debuted at the National Arts Festival last year. It was hugely successful during its staging at this year’s Playhouse New Stages Season and yet again, at the Expressions Sessions Festival.
Throughout the two-week programme the Lifecheck Youth Development Initiative and the Drama school worked together to host a series of workshops aimed at developing youth in various areas.
Last week the play In The Free Person of Such-A-One was staged.
The play sees the “Gods” coming down to Earth in search of a free person. Their journey brings them to South Africa, post democracy, in a time when they should in theory find a free person very easily. But socio-political ills, economic hardship and a degraded democracy seem to have churned out quite the opposite.
The play, a workshopped product, is a clear indication that the youth are not naïve and not afraid to express themselves. The essence of the piece largely deals with exposing social and political wrongs and young people expressing their discontent with the status quo and, in staging this piece, trying to effect change in some way.
This, it could be argued, is an essential social element of the notion of hip-hop, but the play was marketed as being one that was in hip-hop theatre style which, apart from the hip-hop score, didn’t include any other elements of the movement. Disappointing.
A highlight was the annual Life Check All Elements Hip-Hop Jam that was this year incorporated into the Festival. The Jam is a day of hip–hop competitions, break-dancing, rapping and graffiti art.
The festival is a product with serious potential to grow in a number of areas; from access to a professional platform for youth engaged in hip-hop, to the merging of hip-hop and (for lack of a better word) “traditional” theatre, to the exposure of hip-hop’s artistic contributions in graffiti art, dance, and theatre.
It certainly deserves the chance to develop, so let’s hope that next year’s fest will be able to happen – with the support of the government, the university and business – and most importantly with your support, by attending and investing into our youth.