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THE French will invade Joburg next month, but with an army of artistic activities. Running until November in Newtown, the France Season will offer over 70 projects consisting of exhibitions, concerts, dance, theatre, film, literature and interactive sessions.

)“It will appeal to young and old and to traditionalists as well as to the cultural vanguard,” says Bongani Tembe, South Africa’s commissioner-general for the France-South Africa Seasons, a multifaceted bilateral collaboration between the two nations.

The France Season will open formally in July, although there will be some activities in June, and continue until November. It will be followed by a South Africa Season in France running from May to December 2013.

The initiative is spearheaded by the National Arts Council and the French Institute, with support from both governments.

Activities in Newtown during the France Season in South Africa will include the highly anticipated Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, in which French artists are part of the line-up. The festival runs from 23 to 25 August, and French performers include trumpeter Erik Truffaz; the Cécile Verny Quartet, which takes its name from its Ivorian-born vocalist; and more surprises.

Science exhibition
Sci-Bono Discovery Centre will host a Did you Know Chemistry Exhibition in November. This is a fun, interactive exhibition designed to demystify science by showing how chemistry is part of everyday living. It is specially designed for children and was originally created for the Cité des Sciences in Paris.

France Season programme
The France Season opens in July 2012. Read full programme here.
Other events in Johannesburg include the exhibition 20th Century Masters: the Human Figure. This exhibition, supported by five art museums in the Région Rhônes-Alpes, a metropolitan area in France, will be open at the Standard Bank Gallery from 13 July to 15 September.

Some 60 works by French masters will dominate. The opening of the exhibition on 12 July will mark the official opening of the France Season.

In mid-October, Johannesburg will also host the Franco-South Africa Business Forum. French and South African businessmen, political leaders and opinion leaders will discuss issues related to enhancing quality of life, improving employment, strengthening health care, and developing Franco-South African partnerships in Africa.

The exhibition 20th Century Masters (Photo: Ojeda-Le Mage) The exhibition 20th Century Masters will take place in Joburg (Photo: Ojeda-Le Mage) Aspects of the France Season will also be held in other South African cities, as well as at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. During the season, artists from both countries will get together to write, compose or perform something completely new, something special born of their interaction.

Arts and culture
Paul Mashatile, the minister of arts and culture, says the country is proud to be the first in sub-Saharan Africa to participate in such a wide-ranging collaboration with France. The season will concentrate on trade and novel approaches in the fields of education, the sciences and business, he adds.

“The season will allow us to exchange experiences and learn more about French culture, which continues to have a major influence in the world and specifically in many [parts] of the continent.”

Mashatile is also delighted that the South Africa Season in France next year will offer the opportunity for local culture, art and heritage to be exhibited in that country. The ultimate goal of the venture is to ensure an appreciation for the rich and diverse cultures of the people of France and of South Africa, he says.

Laurent Clavel, the French commissioner-general for the France-South Africa Seasons, says the France Season will offer South Africans a glimpse into the cultural scene of modern day France, which is contemporary and dynamic, and embraces the diversity of French society.

“In the [sectors] of science, education and trade, we will focus on areas of mutual interest and once again bring some of our most innovative work to the fore,” he says.

The collaboration between the two countries is aimed at reinforcing strong and deep bonds that will unite South Africa and France. It will also improve mutual understanding and contribute to the diversification of France’s image in South Africa and South Africa’s image in France by emphasising the modernity and values that the two countries share.

South Africa is the pioneer of this kind of engagement in Africa, joining other countries that have had similar seasons with France, such as China, Japan, India, Turkey, Russia and Brazil.

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