By Lungz Mathupha
The Eiffel tower and lush vineyards of Champagne may be a long distance away from our humble existence here in Mzansi, but nestled in the vibrantly youthful suburb of Braamfontein is a slice of France which will make you forget that you’re still in Jo’burg.
Not Parys mense, but a rich and diverse representation of true French culture is much closer to you than you imagined. The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) calls the first floor of No. 62 Juta Street, home. It’s an organisation which seeks to bring French artistry, culture, literature and academia together with its South African counterparts through collaborative projects.
The recent announcement of this year’s cultural programme proved that 20 years on, the organisation has made mighty strides in the quest to celebrate both countries’ vast offerings. Here are some highlights from the various categories:
Toyi Toyi is an example of the outcomes from these joint efforts. Combining dance, theatre and the spoken word, it refers to what we are used to from protest action, but is presented as an art form. One dancer from Hors Serie Company (Bordeux, France) and three dancers from Via Katlehong (Katlehong, South Africa) created this piece which premieres internationally on 2 and 3 April.
Need more ground-breaking creativity? The very first direct Zulu to French translation is set to launch on 31 March in Joburg. Titled On est foutu, the book is a result of work by Matthews Mngadi and Michael Lafon. Bringing one of the most spoken languages in the country with one of the most spoken languages on the continent is pretty awesome.
These guys take literature very seriously (as do we here at SITC). IFAS owns Dibuka French Information Centre which offers almost 20 000 documents in French including children’s books, CDs and DVDs, French mags and learning aids where all the material is presented according to proficiency levels. What’s more you can access this resource in the comfort of your home through their multimedia digital platform, Culturethèque.
Music and Cinema
Other must-see events include a performance by 2014 RFI Discoveries Award Winner, Senegalese singer, Marema. Expect influences of Tracy Chapman and amazing stage presence. Fête de la Musique is back, but in an all-new space. The event that drew 10 000 people to Melville last year, will take place on Saturday, 27 June in Newtown Cultural Precinct. Local and international live music will meet on the streets – a musical journey you don’t want to miss.
For all the film lovers – like me – The European Film Festival kicks off in May with the theme A Woman’s World, and includes the screening of 2015 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, Ida.
Naturally, a taste of France means gastronomical delights are sure to follow, and the Good France / Goût de France event delivers ten-fold. 1000 chefs -1000 menus – five continents. SA features in this event through selected chefs and restaurants in Joburg, the Mother City, P.E. and Durban. On 19 March, relish mouth-watering French cuisine with a special local twist from seven restaurants including EAT restaurant, Sel et Poivre and The Forum here in Johannesburg. Lest we forget, the champers will be overflowing too.
Learning the Lingo
Knowing the language is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself; with so many parts of the world choosing French as a language of instruction and with its association as the language of love – why not? With training centres across Southern Africa, over 1000 branches in 134 countries worldwide which serve 350 000 students a year, Alliance Française is your go-to spot. They not only teach the language, but share French culture with their students. Visit their website for more information.
We hope to see a lot of you city slickers at the various events. Share your experiences with us, as we will do with you.
For the full list of IFAS cultural events for 2015, visit www.ifas.org.za or contact Eléonore Godfroy at comm..firstname.lastname@example.org . Joburg isn’t the only place that’s having fun. Events will also take place in Durban, Cape Town and Pretoria.