South African playwright Brett Bailey has received France’s top cultural award in recognition of his “revolutionary work.”

Brett Bailey

On Tuesday 12 February 2019, Ambassador of France to South Africa, H.E. Mr. Christophe Farad, bestowed on South African playwright Brett Bailey the award of Chevalier des Arts et des Letters (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters) on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron at the Granger Bay Hotel School Restaurant, in Moville Point, Cape Town.

Brett Bailey is a South African playwright, designer, director and installation maker, and the Artistic Director of the performance company Third World Bun fight. He was the curator of South Africa’s only public arts festival, Infecting the City, held in Cape Town from 2008 until 2011. His works have played across Europe, Australia, Africa and Latin America and have won several awards including a gold medal for design at the Prague Quadrennial (2007). He has worked extensively in France and was commissioned to create a visual campaign for the Marseilles France 2018 Festival. Third World Bunfight’s newest production Samson will open at Woordfees in Stellenbosch from 8 to 10 March 2019, a lyrical, apocalyptic music-theatre piece created by Brett with choreography by Vincent Mantsoe and music by Shane Cooper.

Masterpieces of the performing arts

Said Ambassador Farad: “Brett Bailey is a revolutionary director, who’s broken the traditional boundaries by bringing theatre to the streets of Cape Town, during the public arts festival infecting the City. In France, the opera Macbeth, or the performance Sanctuary, dedicated to the migrants, or Exhibit B, in which he addresses the human zoos of the colonial era, were acclaimed in the recent years as masterpieces of the performing arts.”

The Order of Arts and Letters is a French order established in 1957 and awarded by the French ministry of Culture in recognition of significant contributions to the enrichment of the arts and literature in France and abroad. There are three degrees: knight, officer and commander. South African citizens who have been awarded the order are Johnny Clegg (1991), William Kentridge (2013), Gregory Maqoma (2017) and Zanele Muholi (2017).