Sunday, 4 December 2011

Dance Writers Workshop - call for participants

Dance Umbrella 2012, presented by Dance Forum, is scheduled to run from February 7 to March 4, 2012 at various Johannesburg venues.

Dance Umbrella is presented in association with the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (principal funder),The National Arts Council and the Goethe Institut. Other funding partners include the Embassy of Belgium, Delegation of the Flemish Government, Joburg and Rand Merchant Bank.

Dance Umbrella is well known as a platform for contemporary dance and it goes further to promote this art form with its robust audience development. Nurturing and educating audiences is an essential component in boosting the awareness and appreciation of contemporary dance in South Africa. This is primarily achieved through quality writing or analysis of works in the mainstream press, enabling audiences to better grasp the value of the dance works and helping dancers to develop their craft through critical feedback.

It is for this reason that Dance Umbrella 2012, in partnership with the Goethe Institut, is once again holding an intensive three-day dance writing workshop. The workshop is designed to encourage new or existing arts writers to turn their attention to contemporary dance and give them the tools to confidently critique and engage with it in the mainstream mass media.

The inaugural dance writers workshop took place at Dance Umbrella 2010 and was facilitated by the veteran, award-winning arts journalist Adrienne Sichel.

The 2012 Dance Umbrella dance writers workshop will take place on 9, 10 and 13 February.

It will be facilitated by Mary Corrigall, senior feature writer and arts critic at The Sunday Independent. Corrigall, a respected critic and founder and head of the South African Arts Writers and Critics Association (SAAWCA) has received recognition for her work - in 2007 and 2011 she won the CNN African Journalism award; in 2009 she received the prestigious Thomas Pringle Award for Reviews, and also the Lorenzo Natali Award for Journalism, awarded by the European Commission.

Workshop participants will be given an introduction to theories informing this expression, which will be augmented by mediated discussions with a variety of leading figures in the local dance world, as well as an in-depth analysis of their artistic trajectories. An introduction to performance art will also be included so as to make participants aware of the porous relationship between the visual arts and dance and the conceptualist thrust that defines much contemporary dance work. Putting their newly acquired skills into practice during the 2012 Dance Umbrella, participants will be expected to write reviews of various productions, which may be published in the Mail & Guardian, or for the publications they work for, if they are already members of the press.

The ideal candidates would be arts writers and journalists already working in the mainstream press or niche arts publications who wish to expand their area of arts writing, and arts bloggers or graduates keen on entering the arts/dance writing field.

There are only six places available and those interested in participating are invited to apply. Acceptance will be based on the strength of the writing ability of the applicant, and an interview.

Applications should be emailed to or and must include your name, contact details and a biography/CV; a one-page motivation, explaining how you would benefit from the workshop and a sample of writing, preferably on the arts (not less than 500 words).

The closing date for applications is January 12, 2012.

For any further queries or information about the workshop please e-mail or

Monday, 20 June 2011

SAAWCA at Think!Fest, National Arts Festival

Think!Fest: Monday July 4th: 9:30 – 10:30

From Criticism, to Critique to Criticality: Developing Performatory and Participatory Forms of Criticism

In line with its mandate to discover new forms of criticism the recently established South African Arts Writers & Critics Association (SAAWCA) will present a panel discussion that will review traditional forms of criticism in an effort to identify ways in which the discipline can fulfil a more participatory role in the art-making process. In this way the critics would be positioned as collaborators and criticism would become an extension of artistic expression.  As the boundaries between disciplines have been eroded an opportunity has opened up for critics to (re)conceive of their role within the arts.  
Arts critic, journalist and SAAWCA founder, Mary Corrigall, will be joined by art critic and journalist Sean O’ Toole and Professor Leon de Kock, author, poet, head of English at the University of Stellenbosch and founder of the recently established Stellenbosch Literary Project (SLiP).

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Inaugral Discussion Sessions

The South African Arts Writers and Critics Association (SAAWCA) will present its inaugural Discussion Sessions at the Goethe Institut on June 11 from 10am to 2.30pm.

The Discussion Sessions will include the following topics:

1)      Taking the Temperature: The State of Arts Criticism in South Africa
2)      High versus Low: The Impact of Celebrity Culture on Arts Reporting
3)      The Final Frontier: Developing new models of arts criticism and reporting for the internet 

Among the panellists and chairs presenting at the Discussion Sessions are Robert Greig, Chris Thurman, Brooks Spector, Gwen Ansell, Leon de Kok, Edward Tsumele, Bongani Madondo, Diane Coetzer and Michael Smith. 

The emphasis is on eliciting dialogue among members that will inform the association’s future schemes and agendas.

Where: The Auditorium at the Goethe Institut, 119 Jan Smuts Avenue
Parkwood, Johannesburg. 011-442-3232

RSVP: Please notify SAAWCA of your attendance

Sunday, 20 March 2011

An Introduction

“Criticism, after all, is about crisis” writes Darby English in The State of Art Criticism, implying that the state of crisis that continuously permeates this discrete discipline within the arts is a working hazard rather than a phenomenon that should raise concern. Nevertheless, this marginalised activity within the mass media, in particular newspapers, has never been under more threat than it is now with media companies constantly identifying new ways of slim-lining their operations in order to remain financially viable.  

Another ‘crisis’ which has been brewing for some time in the area of criticism, is the fact that the context out of which criticism emerged has shifted considerably; cultural pluralism and critical theory, which has upturned traditional notions of quality, originality, authorship and the distinctions between high/low culture, have more or less obviated the role of criticism – or at least how it has traditionally been conceived. Given that critical engagement with arts products is central to the development of the arts and its audiences, arts reporting and criticism needs to be sustained.   

In order to discover ways of broadening the scope of criticism and arts writing and identifying ways in which it can renew/establish its relevance South African arts writers/commentators need a platform or space where they can begin to consciously renegotiate their role within the fluctuating world of journalism and their function within the arts. 

Broad objectives of the South African Arts Writers and Critics Association (SAAWCA)*:

  • Initiate and expand discourses on criticism and arts writing in South Africa
  • Create more opportunities for arts writing: establish a permanent library and/or record of ephemeral arts products and writing – perhaps an annual publication that reflects on cultural production
  • Educate: editors, writers, arts organisations and public about arts writing: its role, value and position within the arts and media
  • Diversify: encourage and mentor new, diverse voices
  • Elevate the quality of arts writing
  • Uplift the working condition of arts journalists
  • Professionalise arts journalism, so that it is recognised as a profession in and of itself within pedagogical approaches in schools of journalism and the arts and in professional media contexts

(*The name of the organisation and its objectives will be concretised following the inaugural meeting in Johannesburg in June. Those unable to attend that meeting are invited to e-mail feedback on these fundamental aspects)


Non-exclusivity is the driving ethos. 

The organisation is chiefly designed to serve those currently working within the mainstream media, covering all spheres of the arts from the visual arts, film, theatre, dance, literature and music. Nevertheless those in academia who dabble in criticism or toil for specialised arts journals/websites are also welcome to join.As are bloggers too.

Wannabe arts critics and writers are also encouraged to join as part of the mandate of the organisation is to mentor new voices.  Artists or members of art organisations wishing to contribute to the discourse on criticism are encouraged to attend meetings.   


The inaugural meeting will be held on June 11, 2011 in Johannesburg – venue and time to be announced. Those wishing to attend this meeting should e-mail:

Plans are afoot for a second meeting at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in June/July this year

Depending on interest meetings in Durban and Cape Town will be considered for 2012. Writers based in those cities, or who are unable to attend the inaugural meeting, are encouraged to e-mail feedback, ideas or statements.

Call for presentations/panellists/chairs:

Published critics and writers are invited to present provocative talks at the first meeting in Johannesburg.   It is envisaged that four and/or two panel discussions addressing pressing issues within arts writing will be presented. The talks only need be 15 minutes in length. Send a 200 word introduction to your topic to by May 7. Chairs will be approached and selected based on the themes presented.

Volunteers needed:

A number of volunteers are needed to help contribute to the running of the organisation; from writing newsletters, blog/facebook and twitter updates, e-mailing, coordinating meetings in Johannesburg and other major cities, reviewing panel topics and selecting chairs and other general administration activities, including fund raising. Members who are willing to devote some time to this worthy cause should send an e-mail to