For our second weekend trip, we went to Grahamstown, about an hour and a half from Port Elizabeth to attend the National Arts Festival. Grahamstown is where Rhodes University is located, and it is the quintessential college town, filled with bars, places to shop, and of course, the university itself.
For me, if you're in South Africa for the first two weeks of July, you should make every effort to go to this festival. It's HUGE. There are more shows being performed every day than you can imagine, and almost all of them are very high quality performances, and it's the best way to get an introduction to African culture and more specifically, South African culture. I only had the chance to see two shows, and the rest of the time I shopped for my souvenirs and gifts on the Village Green.
The first show was called #ToyiToyi, which I later learned means protest. It was a really interesting dance piece that touched on some major African events, including the ebola epidemic, discrimination, and the lack of equal rights for all. One of the more interesting parts for me was when they were "celebrating" Mandela Day, which was the next weekend. They had the one white woman in the troupe put on a Mandela mask and act as Mandela, while the rest of the dancers started to put chocolate sauce on her arms. The way that I interpreted it, the dancers and the director felt that while Mandela had done a lot of good while he was in power, most of his plans and aspirations for better education, employment, and housing had not come to fruition. Like many of the previous rulers as well as those who followed, there were a lot of empty promises made to the general population. And, again, still my interpretation, it seemed as if the director/choreographer felt as if Mandela might as well have been a white leader, because he was well-off, because after he was elected, he did not have to live in the horrible conditions that most black South Africans lived in. Anyway, that's what I thought of it. it was a pretty strange performance, but it grew on me over time, and it gave me a better idea of the problems that many South Africans face.