The Africa Centre's Infecting The City Public Arts Festival , which is a highlight on the Cape Town calendar, will be hosted in Mbombela for the first time this year, in collaboration with the Department of Arts and Culture . The festival is taking place in Mbombela's city centre on Thursday, 16 and Friday, 17 January, 2014 . Vibrant and unexpected, Infecting The City is one of the most extraordinary free annual public arts festivals on the African continent. During the festival, Mbombela becomes the backdrop and stage to a mesmerising showcase of live culture across artistic disciplines that include dance, song, poetry and theatre. Audiences will have the chance to engage with 17 local and national artists integrating with the public spaces in a new and unusual form. According to the curator, Jay Pather , some of the many "must-sees" are: The Widow, a provocative contemporary dance theatre work choreographed by Mandisi Shindo to classical music and traditional singing. The old Nelspruit Post Office is used as a backdrop to tell a story of love, marriage and life; the journeys of beautiful young girls and widows who let us into their hearts after the death of their husbands. An installation consisting of five giraffes made of timber to stand 4.5 metres tall, by visual artist Simon Max Bannister . His Giraffe "Journey Series" 2013 was recently awarded Wildlife Artist of the year by the David Shepherd Foundation in London . A variety of dance companies and dance styles, classical and contemporary, coming together in a composite work performed to the stirring composition of Bolero by Ravel. An extremely exciting challenge Tanner Methvin , executive director of the Africa Centre, said: "It is an extremely exciting challenge to be combining local and national artists to forge a programme that is uniquely Mbombela. Audiences may think that they have seen some of the artists on the programme, but we have a treat in store for them - Infecting the City is more than an arts festival, it is an opportunity to engage with public spaces in a way that audiences may not have done before. We have designed a route and programme for audiences to discover, define and experience their environments in a unique and interactive way." Sibusiso Xaba , director-general of the Department of Arts and Culture , said: "As we count down towards the celebrations of 20 years of democracy and freedom, we view festivals such as Infecting The City, as platforms that reflect our democracy and freedom - this ability to have self-expression is an important part of the way in which South Africans should celebrate from now until April 2014 . Public arts festivals like Infecting The City are vital in stimulating local economies, as they contribute to the Mzansi Golden Economy strategy, through the creative industries and in bringing cities such as Mbombela alive to its own people. Festivals provide more than the obvious benefit - of allowing access to culture that might not otherwise be accessible. They give the general public a chance to interact with their city in new ways and to share that experience with total strangers. In the same way, artists are challenged to create pieces to engage very diverse audiences. Let's celebrate the 20 years of democracy and freedom through the arts." Dates and times: Thursday, 16 January: 9am to 1pm , repeated at 2pm to 6pm . Friday, 17 January: 9am to 1pm , repeated at 2pm to 6pm . Festival sites The festival will follow routes through the city centre, giving audiences a chance to follow the entire journey of artworks for a diverse experience or pick and choose experiences at will along the way. The programme is available on www.infectingthecity.com/2014 . All performances listed on the festival programme are free to the public.
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