By Melvyn Minnaar
In our timeless digital age, the concept of a watch is abstract. As a timepiece that is. Given the status of the brand name, Rolex counts as jewelry –a watch that is watched. And at this year’s Rolex Art Weekend, it was no surprise to see how many twinkled under the Baxter theatre lights during the weekend great artists of the world came to Cape Town.
The verb ‘watch’ and its sensual mate ‘listen’ fitted the ambience and charge of the two-day happenings which included public talks about art, architecture, literature and dance and music performances.
The Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative started in 2002, is a modern version of the classic tradition of masters sharing their craft with those that have to follow them. As Rebecca Irvin, director of the project, elegantly explained, it is like the master watchmaker teaching his apprentice. Of course, in the world of the arts, the process plays out in deferent ways, and one can but compliment the Swiss company for providing for these variations in the processes of mentorship.
This was most visible in the performances at this year’s Rolex Art Weekend: dance by Khoudia Touré from Senegal as protégé of Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite, music by drummer Zakir Hussian (his mentor the Indian-born master tabla maestro), readings from Colin Barrtett’s debute novel (mentor Colm Toibin). And, of course, the impressive architectural model Mariam Kamara from Niger conceived under the watchful eye of David Adjaye.
For culturati to feast on were the two ‘Rolex Conversations’ lead by the ever-charming and sussed Harvard professor Homi Bhabha. It was with somewhat of a circus master’s skill that he kept the “conversations” on track with superstar artmakers such as Yo-yo Ma, Wole Soyinka, Mira Nair, Robert Wilson and our own William Kentridge.
The Saturday morning event took a delicious turn when Roger Federer interrupted some deep artistic-philosophical sidetrack by walking in to join the panel. (The previous night, he and his pal Rafael Nadal entertained a couple of thousand raucous fans in the Cape Town stadium. No wonder his watch sparkled.)
During a private party, the company announced the next set of Mentor and Protégés.
The Hamilton composer and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda, the filmmaker Spike Lee, the visual artist Carrie Mae Weems and the theatre director Phyllida Lloyd will act as mentors. While Miranda’s protégé is still to be announced, Spike Lee will work with the Emmy Award filmmaker Kyle Bell, Lloyd will mentor Brooklyn-based Whitney White and Weems will advise the 35-year-old Camila Rodríguez Triana from Colombia.
Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative suggest that mentors and protégés spend at least six weeks together. It also provides the protégés with a stipend in addition to funds for travel and expenses.
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