The Gordon Institute for Performing and Creative Arts (GIPCA) brings the year to a close with the Beautiful Project, to be held at the Cape Town City Hall on 9-10 December.

The Institute continues to push creative and intellectual boundaries through its various interdisciplinary interrogations, with this two-day event calling into question our definitions of beauty and ugliness, with specific reference to the African continent. Proceedings will begin on Friday evening, with a keynote address by leading cultural commentator and critic, Sarah Nutall; co-editor of the prize-winning book Ugly/Beautiful: African and Diaspora Aesthetics, from which the event takes its thematic inspiration.

Research Professor in English at the University of Stellenbosch, having worked for ten years at WISER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research), Nutall is author, editor or co-editor of eight books. Well-known for her work on youth culture in post-apartheid South Africa, Nuttall is recognised locally and internationally as a prominent voice in the ongoing debates on cultural theory, and particularly for her fresh perspective on the contemporary South African context

Further exploration of notions of ‘aesthetic’, in the African context, will take place in various forms throughout the weekend. These include a performance of dance artist Nelisiwe Xaba’s They Look At Me And That’s All They Think. Based on the story of Sara Baartman, the piece is conceptualised as an allegory of Xaba’s own artistic journey from Soweto to the Eurocentric world of contemporary art, which is not devoid of exotic voyeurism.

Acclaimed musician Neo Muyanga will perform on vocals, piano and guitar; presenting new improvisations together with acoustic arrangements of material off his newest record, dipalo, which was released on 19 October 2011 as a supplement to the cultural journal, the Chimurenga Chronic. Muyanga’s most recent explorations – a hybrid between the traditional and electric – plays along the boundaries of the crafted and the improvised. Produced using counting and proportion games as inspiration for the music, the album is titled using the Sesotho term for ‘mathematics’. 

The closing night festivities will see theatre director and chef Peter Hayes cooking-up an eight-course Processional Dinner through the reception rooms of Cape Town’s magnificent City Hall. In putting together what may just be Cape Town’s most talked about event this December, this previous creative director of the Mother City Queer Project predicts “it will be the kind of night you dream about…beyond your wildest dreams…”. This ‘rare’ experience promises a menu of whimsy and surprise, fun and laughter, levity and weight; a night when food, art, dance and theatre entwine and reflect each other’s eccentricities. References to Capote’s (in)famous ‘Black and White Ball’ not unfounded, it is suggested that guests dress in a manner befitting the occasion, in something they would want to be seen in, in photographs in years to come, as Hayes assures that “from canapés to cocktails, dessert to dancing, it’ll be a night to remember!”

The Beautiful Project takes place at the Cape Town City Hall, Darling Street,  9-10 December 2011.  For more information on the full programme, see the website, phone the GIPCA office on 021 480 7156 or email Tickets cost R40 for Friday, and R80 for Saturday, and are available through Computicket.

The Beautiful Project – Full Programme available for download.

The Beautiful Project welcome and opening address audio recording available for download.

The Beautiful Project video recordings:

Start: 9 Dec ’11

End: 10 Dec ’11


Organizer: GIPCA


Venue: Hiddingh Campus and Cape Town City Hall

Address: Google Map South Africa