Artists With Disabilities Takes Centre Stage At The ArtsAbility Festival

The ArtsAbility Festival celebrates the abilities of artists with disabilities. Now in its 8th year it seeks to engender an innovative, creative space of exciting, heartfelt performances for disabled and able-
bodied artists and performers. It commences on 29 November at Artscape and brings to the stage an array of breath-taking art pieces during National Disability Rights Awareness Month culminating
on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December

Through inclusivity, performances, dialogue, and workshops, the festival continues to use the arts
to drive social transformation, addressing the issues that people with disabilities experience in their
lives. It further seeks to highlight the significance of accessibility and integration into the arts, all
while celebrating the uniqueness that these artists have to offer.

Staying true to the theme of Disability, Dance, and Diversity, Artscape along with the Unmute Dance
Company has partnered with guest productions from abroad including Diversity in Dance UK, and
Sensorium EX, brings fresh, new performances for audiences to revel and immerse themselves.

According to findings in a research report documented in the African Journal of Disability titled
Creating inclusive Performing Arts practices for development of youth with disabilities: A critical
ethnographic study, headed by Artscape CEO, Marlene le Roux, exposure to the performing arts
provides important skills development and social opportunities for disabled youth. “It is up to the
‘keepers’ of the performing arts – those in administration and management – to realign the
Performing Arts in a way that can best benefit everyone,” cited the report. The report explored how
youth with disabilities, who were exposed to theatre performances, were influenced by becoming
aware of possibilities for social and economic inclusion.

Audiences can look forward to a jam-packed line-up of artistic performances.

As part of the festival launch on 29 November, Unmute will also present a moving piece called
Timelapse, a production, which delves into moments in one’s life that move with us through time –
be it a happy memory, a traumatic feeling or minor experience. The piece also explores how
moments affect future moments, making this deeply-felt art performance one which shapes new
beginnings and refreshes souls.

Another production to look forward to is Unclear, on 30 November at 19:30 by queer disabled
artist Louise Westerhout, which follows, in forensic detail, the journey of struggles and triumphs in
an altered body following treatment stage 4 cancer and hip/femur replacement. Unclear is a raw
account of separating one’s consciousness of mortal existence, and our flawed needs for purpose.

This production uses strong language, and was developed in conversation with Craig Leo.

The Diversity in Dance UK performance takes place on 2 and 3 December, it’s a programme that
aims to expose all artists to different cultures through performing arts and engagement, creating a
standard of work that is recognised on a global stage, while creating moving experiences for
audiences to enjoy. The UK dancer; Pallavi Nair, Chinyanta Kabaso and Jia McKenzie who is a
deaf dancer. The Unmute Dancers are Nadine MacKensie, Yaseen Manuel and Tasmin Andrews.
Also on the line-up is a gripping interpretation of the Islamic story of Adam and Hawa (Adam and
Eve), in a piece called Dust to Man by Yaseen Manuel, takes place on 1 December at 19:30. The
story starts at the beginning of life as we know it, detailing Adam’s purpose and duties to man on
earth. After he was influenced by the ‘forbidden fruit’ the production takes audiences on an
insightful journey of how this act changed life as we know it.

Chink in a rubber wall takes place on 2 December at 19:30 a thrilling new work through a
collaboration by the Unmute Dance Company and Italian artist based in Switzerland, dancer and
choreographer Alessandro Schiatarella. Allesandro’s dynamic relationship with Unmute began in
2016 during his first residency in South Africa with the company, which has since developed into
powerful exchanges of creativity and exploration. Allesandro has previously brought two of his
works Altrove and One at a Time to the Artsability Festival in 2018, which was met with vigor and

Listen to my Hands, on 3 December at 15:00 is another piece on the line-up and is a
collaboration by Andile Vellem and Jazzart Dance Theatre that was created in celebration of Deaf
Awareness Month this past September. This piece is about communication, and how Andile formed
a riveting production through movement of his hands. In his quiet world where he found it difficult
to communicate, Andile can now speak louder than his voice through the performing arts.

Sensorium Ex has partnered with the Artscape Artsability Festival to bring a collaborative
performance to the stage, where artists are able to share with intrigued audiences the magic of
expression through the use of technology. The team is working with Artscape to identify performers
from the local disability sector to fulfill some of the roles, including that of Kitsune and the
Chorus. Auditions for these roles are underway.

Composer and Artistic Director Paola Prestini, explains
“Our aim is to build new methods for co-creation and inclusive practices in Opera by developing
approaches to casting and the artistic process, which centre access, inclusion and lived
experience as the driving forces of the creative process. The time with Artscape will focus on
exploring new collaborative approaches to developing a scene grounded in more improvisational
elements – centering the role of a mixed-ability Chorus and their relationships to improvisation
(both voice and movement/dance) and early explorations of how we might develop an artistic
language for a character who is non-verbal as the key exploration of the workshop”

“It’s a dream”, shares, Jerron Herman, Choreographer and Associate Director. “Sensorium is a
piece of art and a process that is impacted by the communities and environments with which it
partners. This is never more true than with the authentic and dynamic partnership where the team
of Sensorium Ex will have the chance to develop co-liberatory processes for our opera with the
South African disability community. We will focus on a crucial scene, but more emphatically
understand our approach to welcoming artists into the work through the work in the context of the
ArtsAbility Festival. I’m so excited to explore with a space that is this committed to artistry and
equity in equal measure.

The Sensorium Ex Opera is being funded by the following international organisations; Ford
Foundation, VisionIntoArt, Beth Morrison Projects, The Atlanta Opera and Enactlab.
Tickets can be purchased at Computicket or via Artscape Dial-a-seat 021 421 7695.
For media enquiries, please contact or cell: 0769589593

Issued on behalf of: Artscape

Editors Notes:
Diversity in Dance – additional information
This project, funded by the British Council, is a partnership between Artscape and the Edinburgh
Jazz & Blues Festival in Scotland, aimed to promote nation building and global solidarity through
the performing arts. The Unmute Dance Company hosted three dancers from the United Kingdom
for two months, during which able-bodied and disabled dancers created astounding new work,
which would have been showcased at the Edinburgh Festival Carnival in July 2022.
However, due to administrative challenges, they will have the opportunity to do the showcase at
the carnival in 2023. But all is not lost, as local audiences will have the opportunity to see these
remarkable, diverse performances at the Artscape as part of the Artsability Festival

Sensorium Ex
Sensorium Ex is an opera for soloists, choir, chamber orchestra and electronics, which explores
artists’ expression beyond their voices, and how to connect with souls outside of verbal
communication. This ground-breaking project reimagines artistic expression beyond conventional
languages, adopting an innovative, broader expression of creativity and at the same time,
exploring an inclusive approach, making artists, especially those with disabilities, feel included.
Composed by Paola Prestini, the opera is centred around young Kitsune, a non-verbal child with a
disability, and how his relationship with his mother blossomed along their journey of communication
and expression beyond the use of spoken words. The opera is based on the experience of librettist
Brenda Shaughnessy, who has woven her journey into this heartfelt piece as a mother to her son
Cal, who is also non-verbal and lives with cerebral palsy. What does it mean to have a voice, and
how is it expressed? Do artists overly depend on their voices, while there are other ways to
express what they are trying to relay?

Sensorium Ex aims to explore this phenomenon, by using advanced technology in the form of
algorithms and artificial intelligence to help artists find their voice beyond language.

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