Posts tagged "disruption"

Artists given licence to disrupt (as if they needed it)

2017 looks like the year disruption will come full circle at Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival, from June 29 to July 9. Last year’s call for proposals urged, challenged, prodded and provoked the original disruptors – artists – to shake things up a bit. We have just a few weeks to wait to see how they responded.

Urging dare devils and disruptors to enter their work for the 2017 festival, incoming executive producer Ashraf Johaardien said last year: “We want to examine how the arts challenges mainstream ways of thinking, its responses to disruptions to the status quo, as well as how it disrupts conventional artistic boundaries and conventions to create new artistic territories.”

‘Do more than think outside of the box … throw away the box…’

Johaardien said he hoped artists would “do more than think outside of the box” when responding to the theme, Art and Disruption.

“For me, this theme asks artists to throw away the box completely. Airbnb has revolutionised travel, Uber has reshaped transport and Netflix has changed the way we digest television. I am hoping we see submissions that do the same for the arts.”

Sounds like a challenge that the bad boys and girls of the arts world would have found irresistible. Roll on June 29!

But before I have a look at this year’s schedule let me take a look back at some of my (kinda disruptive) favourites from the National Arts Festival of 2016:

An ever-speeding descent into madness. Sound familiar?

AnimalFarmAn interpretation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm set in the modern South African context left audiences at the 2016 National Arts Festival struggling for air as they laughed and winced their way through an orgy of greed and corruption.

The show pulls no punches as it documents an ever-speeding descent into madness when the liberated become the oppressors. Hints that this ruling class at war with itself references recent goings on in Parliament in Cape Town builds more and more obviously until we have no doubt about whose “fire pool” we are splashing about in.

One can’t help thinking that some people really do set themselves up to be made fun of. This show capitalises cleverly on South Africa’s surplus of excellent material for satire.

This adaptation was originally created to help South African high school children better understand Animal Farm, a school set work, which should explain why it might, in the words of director Neil Coppen, “sometimes feel a bit 101 to people who are more political”.

Animal_Farm_-_1st_editionLeaving little room for misinterpretation didn’t come across as dumbing down at all, though. Stating what might be obvious to some is brave in a world where things are intentionally kept a bit vague so as to keep all options open.

The cast of five black women morph in and out of masculine and feminine roles and gender often seems to disappear. There are, however, moments when the audience is reminded of the overwhelming masculinity of most of our real-life power players.

The tempo and suspense builds to a crescendo, with all of us hanging to know what happens next…

The story behind the story: also deliciously demented

In her new play, In Bocca Al Lupo, at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Jemma Khan takes a slight detour from the delicious and demented make-believe world we know her for and tells us a little about her life, and it turns out to be quite delicious and demented too.

Kahn is best known for her two previous shows, the international cult hit The Epicene Butcher and last year’s sellout success, We Didn’t Come To Hell For The Croissants.

She plays all characters in In Bocca Al Lupo herself, employing various cunning tricks and technologies that make it feel like we are watching her interact with others.

JemmaKahnAfter finishing her degree, Kahn tells us, she decided not to follow the well-trodden path of a drama graduate (along the lines of get degree, get agent, develop eating disorder, become estate agent). She has the audience in stitches as she paints a very funny and somewhat scandalous picture of a few horrible, if interesting, years travelling the world and trying to work out what she was going to do with her life.

Bocca Al Lupo translates to Into the mouth of the wolf, which she tells us Italians use as a good luck phrase much the same way as English speakers say Break a leg. Into the mouth of the wolf sounds about right as a description of her time in Japan and Ireland.

If her life is not, in fact, filled with lovable and loving people, she does a very good job of making it look like it is. With the exception of the Speed-guzzling, posh-hating Irish boyfriend, who sounds like he could have done with a good telling off and probably a scrub, her characters are all damn near adorable. Who wouldn’t like a granma called Fufu who helps fund your dreams.

The play has its sad moments (whose life doesn’t?), but mostly this beautifully illustrated tale has us laughing our way around the world. Her use of Kamishibai, a form of Japanese street theatre where a sequence of images are displayed in a frame to help tell stories, is as slick as it is visually pleasing.

A great storyteller telling a great story!

https://www.nationalartsfestival.co.za/

 

 

 

 

Yoco, poster child of SA as global fintech hub

Local startup Yoco’s successfully concluded foreign funding round, announced on Wednesday, has been described as a vote of confidence in South Africa’s growing fintech ecosystem.

The South African startup told a media briefing in Cape Town that it had secured funding commitments for an undisclosed sum from U.S.-based Quona Capital and Velocity Capital of the Netherlands.

In addition to being a milestone and validation for Yoco, the company’s chief executive officer and co-founder, Katlego Maphai, pictured, said that being able to attract top-tier foreign VC investors was a “vote of confidence in South Africa’s growing fintech and startup ecosystem”.

Adding that Cape Town was “fast becoming a global fintech capital”, Maphai said it was not a coincidence that the fintech ecosystem was developing in the Cape.

He said the Western Cape government’s public endorsement of Yoco had been supplemented by constant, quiet support from the sidelines. Maphai noted that special thanks were due to Alan Winde, the province’s MEC for economic opportunities.

Both Quona Capital co-founder and partner, Monica Brand Engel, and Velocity Capital director, Allard Luchsinger, mentioned the enabling ecosystem of the Western Cape and its position as a potential launchpad into the rest of Africa as additional reasons to invest in Yoco’s “world-class platform and team”.

“There is a massive opportunity to expand access to, and the quality of, financial services through the digitisation of SME payments and payments data in Africa, where cash still predominates in many economies,” said Engel, pictured, of Quona Capital, which manages the $141 million Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund, the first global fintech fund for the under-served.

“Yoco is a market-maker … growing the size of the card payment acceptance market,” added Luchsinger.

Maphai noted the importance of “raising smart capital from seasoned fintech investors”, saying it would enable Yoco “to continue our self-directed journey to grow the SME payments markets through world-class execution, delivered with radical simplicity”.

Yoco has previously raised capital from angel investors and seed funds, including the likes of CRE Venture Capital, specialist fintech angel investor Robby Hilkowitz and Greg Kidd (a first-round investor and advisor at Square and Twitter), but this was the first funding round solely including institutional investors. The company said it is also bigger than previous raises.

Yoco co-founder, Carl Wazen, pictured, said the funding had been earmarked to expand the footprint and services offered by the fast-growing fintech company that currently processes more than R1 billion in transactions per year.

He added that Yoco planned to use the funds raised to expand their current base of 6,500 customers, 70 percent of whom had not accepted cards at all before. The company also planned to add additional services to their offering and to prepare for expansion into other markets, with possibilities in both East and West Africa under discussion.

Yoco’s integrated card payment and point-of-sale system enables small businesses and entrepreneurs to securely accept card payments wherever they are. Pay-per-use pricing with no monthly fees make it an obvious choice for small business owners.

In line with its focus on empowering SME growth, the company also offers merchants a business intelligence portal that gives real-time insights into transactions and products sold. The size of the market is estimated to be around a million businesses in South Africa, where even social grants are disbursed via preloaded debit cards but many merchants cannot accept any form of plastic.

As for the rest of the continent, the press briefing was reminded that small and medium sized businesses, both formal and informal, are estimated to be responsible for up to 50 percent of Africa’s GDP and 90 percent of employment on the continent.

Although, Velocity’s Luchsinger, pictured, said “we know that Sub-Saharan Africa is different from the rest of the continent”.

But, he added, they had been very impressed with the depth of thinking that went into every single part of Yoco’s business.

“We believe this team will approach other regions with the same depth of thinking and analysis. We think this is a team that could become the main SME provider for Africa.”

There seems to be little doubt about its potential. Winde, who said he had squeezed the meeting in after being told he wouldn’t be able to make it, described Yoco as as “the next generation of great ideas in finance”.

Thanking the investors for choosing an African company and one based in Cape Town, he added that he thought they had made the right choice.

“The leapfrog into delivering services into Africa is going to happen out of this region,” he said.

Winde added that the big names, “whether they be from Europe, Israel or Silicon Valley”, were migrating towards the Cape. “This is just another little building block in that ecosystem.”

Hilkowitz, the angel investor who has amassed a sizeable portfolio in fintech across developed and developing markets, agreed: “Africa doesn’t have a fintech hub … This is an opportunity for Cape Town to be the fintech hub of Africa.”

And, he added, “Yoco can be the poster child for that”.

– African News Agency (ANA)