Joburg’s cultural hub will be toasting the female creative spirit from 6 to 10 August 2008, when the Newtown Celebrates Women in Arts weekend explodes into action.

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A feast of female creativity to usher in Women’s Day
Presented by the Newtown Management District with the support of the Johannesburg Development Agency, the Newtown Celebrates Women in Arts weekend takes place at venues located in the Newtown Cultural Precinct. Here, visitors can enjoy a feast of live music, dance, theatre, film, photography, street performance, storytelling, poetry, workshops, crafts, family activities and late-night parties galore – all with a female flavour.

The festivities are being held to coincide with National Women’s Day on Saturday, 9 August, and aim to highlight the valuable contribution South African women make to the country’s arts and entertainment sector.

The free Women of the Sun film festival at Museum Africa, supported by the Gauteng Film Commission, featuring movies and documentaries by female directors hailing from South Africa and other African countries, promises to be essential viewing.

Kate Shand, marketing manager for the Newtown Management District, explains that this year’s weekend is a collective effort, with the various venues in the area taking the initiative to stage female-themed events in celebration of Women’s Day.

“The events are an expression of what it means to be a woman, and are accessible to everyone,” she says. “An exciting addition this year is the free ‘open-stage’ street performances taking place in Newtown’s public spaces over the weekend, to draw in pedestrians and commuters and create a festival atmosphere. Also, many of the events offered at the venues are free.”

The Women of the Sun screenings, at Museum Africa, feature the premiere of Meg Rickards’s feature film Land of Thirst on Thursday, 7 August, starting at 18h30. This South African film is a historical romance, set in the Karoo in 1913.

The remaining films, mainly documentaries, will be screened on Friday and Saturday, 8 and 9 August, often featuring Q&A sessions with the directors or producers afterwards. The movies, sourced from South Africa, Egypt and the United States, will illuminate women’s issues and the presence of the filmmakers is expected to promote much-needed dialogue on building artistic and production capacity. There will be master classes on offer by filmmakers Ate de Jong and Susan Kordas, as well as a half-day workshop titled ‘So you want to be a filmmaker?’, targeting women either in or wanting to enter the film and television industry.

On Friday, 8 August at 11h00, Liza Aziz’s documentary Bongani Umama celebrates KwaZulu-Natal women who are making their mark in the construction industry. It is followed at 12 noon by Ingrid Gavshon’s documentary Nikiwe, about a teenage orphan who, despite having to look after her brothers, demonstrates the resilience of the human spirit. At 13h30, Rina Jooste’s documentary Flowers of the Nation looks at the role of brave South African women who fought on both sides of the apartheid divide. The American documentary Iron Ladies of Liberia, at 15h15, is a fascinating fly-on-the-wall account of Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s first year in power, directed by Siatta Scott Johnson and Daniel Junge.  It was voted 2nd in the Top 3 International Films category Audience Awards at the recent Encounters documentary film festival.

Saturday, 9 August sees Jane Lipman’s documentary Courting Justice screened at 11h00, revealing the real women behind the official gowns of SA’s top female judges. At 12h30, be sure not to miss a series of entertaining animation shorts produced by SA’s top young talents at the Anamazing Workshop. The gripping documentary Affectionately Known as Alex, directed by American filmmaker Danny Turken and screening at 13h00, provides insight into the life of residents of Alexandra township, in the months leading up to the wave of xenophobic violence.

At 14h15, Karin Slater’s 50 Years of Love addresses the institution of marriage and its relevance in modern society, and at 15h15, Black Sunday, directed by Karabo Lediga and Tamsin Andersson, explores a Soweto tradition among young artists. The Women of the Sun screenings wrap up at 16h15 with The House of Saud, an Egyptian documentary by Jihan El-Tahri about the oil-rich country of Saudi Arabia and its complex relationship with the United States.

For more information about the activities go to www.newtown.co.za or call + 27 11 833 6323