AFDA alumni launch IYABUYA iPOPArt Festival

Feb 1, 2023 | Alumni, News

The IYABUYA iPOPArt festival is a live and mixed media arts festival presented by POPArt Productions running from 21 January – end March 2023.

POPArt Theatre, which opened in 2011 in Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct, had established itself as the front runner in independent theatre in Johannesburg – presenting over 500 brand new theatre works and launching several careers between 2011 and 2020. After almost 10 years of groundbreaking work, the company decided to take a hiatus from operating as a full time theatre shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020. While the pandemic extended this particular hiatus for almost 3 years, the company was able to continue working on various projects and productions with various partners, while considering whether to return as a full time independent theatre. With the gradual re-opening of cultural spaces, and independent artists being in a more stable position to create, POPArt has decided to take steps toward re-launching their theatre – the first step of which has been presenting the IYABUYA iPOPArt festival in the first quarter of 2023.

IYABUYA iPOPArt, meaning ”POPArt is coming back”, is a festival that celebrates the spirit of independent theatre and solidifies POPArt’s commitment to providing a home for artists in the sector. “With all the uncertainty of the past few years, we were honestly not sure if we would be able to make a return… the festival celebrates that, due to a demand from both the artists and our established audience, we are definitely coming back as a permanent Independent Theatre house”, says the company and festival’s artistic director Hayleigh Evans. “As we see the return of POPArt, we hope to see the return of more spaces and opportunities for live arts to flourish”.

The festival opened this past weekend with “24 Hours in the City” – an annual event organised by POPArt whereby close to 50 theatre makers get together over a 24 hour period to create 6 brand new short theatre pieces. The opening event took place at the Market Theatre Laboratory in Newtown – one of the long standing partners of POPArt. “In addition to celebrating our favourite theatre pieces and artists, the festival also celebrates our multiple partners in the arts space, many of whom have been pivotal to keeping POPArt going over the past few years”, says Evans. The festival events will take place in various venues in Johannesburg such as the Market Theatre Lab, UJ arts Centre, The Bioscope Independent Cinema and Breezeblock Cafe, with the core programme happening at the AFDA Red Roof Theatre in Auckland Park.

The core programme, that is – theatre shows running from Thursday – Sunday (as they did at the POPArt theatre) – will be taking place at the AFDA Red Roof Theatre. “While we hope to soon be in a space of our own during the coming year, we are thrilled to be able to make ourselves a home at AFDA. This is particularly significant as this is the very theatre where the founding members – Orly Shapiro, Shoki Mokgapa and I – all met during our studies. I hope that this is also a way to celebrate and honour our partnership that brought the idea of POPArt to life and to recognise all of our contributions as POPArt moves into the future,” says Evans.

The curated festival programme is a celebration of POPArt’s greatest hits : hits in the sense of shows that were successful with audiences, as well as shows that best represent the spirit and ethos of the POPArt theatre and the stories that it was built to share. Given that POPArt ran as an ‘almost full time festival’ from 2011 – 2020, the programme is both representative of the volume and diversity of work POPArt was part of producing in its history and also signals the expansion of the work as it include the various POPUps that have been part of the theatre’s pandemic operations too. The festival includes an astounding number of award winning productions and arts practitioners, as well as productions across genres and mediums. While the retrospective aspect aims to re-engage existing audiences, we have also included many practitioners who got their start in independent theatre, showing once more the importance of spaces like POPArt in unearthing and showcasing our unique talents. “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the artists who have agreed to take part in the festival : artists who are taking there time to re-mount work to share to with their audience, new audiences and a new generation of theatre makers, many of whom have not had the chance to see independent theatre in action over the past 3 years”, says the artistic director.

The first official week of programming kicks off with two Standard Bank Young Artist award recipients in one week : with a pop up of JBOBS live, presented by Jefferson J.Bobs Tshabalala (SBYA 2020), at the Bioscope on 25 Jan and a run of the highly acclaimed TSWALO, presented by the Theatre Duo (SBYA 2023)  at AFDA from 26 – 29 Jan. Following this, will be a total of 10 productions changing over weekly at AFDA – with POPUp evenings of storytelling, film, improv and stand-up comedy happening all the way through until 31 March.

The festival is supported by the National Arts Council PESP funding. “The National Arts Council have given us the opportunity to take such a big step toward our relaunch”, says Evans. “Without this support, and the support of our various venue and content partners, a relaunch would be a lot more difficult to consider”. While the festival is supported by the NAC, it simultaneously acts as a fundraiser with a percentage of the revenue generated going toward the costs of re-opening the theatre. “By joining us for any or every one of the shows in this awesome festival, you also get to contribute to the future sustainability of the theatre and the important work we do for independent live artists”, reminds Evans.

Core Theatre & Dance Programme at AFDA  (Tickets are R 150) :

  • TSWALO : 26 – 29 January
  • KAFKA’s APE : 2 – 5 February
  • TEXT ME WHEN YOU ARRIVE : 9 – 12 February
  • FIREHOUSE : 16 – 19 February
  • CHANT! : 2 -5 March
  • BORN NAKED : 9 – 12 March
  • COTTONWOOL KID : 16 – 19 March
  • THENX Ladies present : 23 – 26 March

POPUp Programme in various venues (Tickets from R 80 – R 150) :

  • JBOBS Live with Jefferson Tshabalala: 25 January at the Bioscope, additional dates and venues TBC
  • SKIERLIK Screenings : 21, 22, 25 February at the Bioscope
  • SERURUBELE Storytellers series : 14 February at Breezeblock, additional dates and venues TBC
  • THE BOX COMEDY with Goliath and Goliath at UJ Arts Centre : Dates TBC
  • CAUSING A SCENE : Dates and venues TBC

Direct bookings :

Festival PDF:



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