During South Africa's long night of apartheid, white playwright and social commentator Pieter-Dirk Uys felt unable to speak out. So he invented a character who could: Evita Bezuidenhout, the wife of a fictional Afrikaner nationalist figure. In the late 1970s and early '80s, "Evita" lampooned the establishment in a series of satirical diaries. Later, with the help of a wig, heels and a handbag, she became real. Black and white alike loved the subversion. Then, in 1996, Uys took over a derelict railway station in Darling, a semidesert town an hour's drive north of Cape Town, and turned it into a cabaret called Evita Se Perron.
As the cabaret's reputation grew, so did Darling's. Spurred by its newfound fame, in 2004 Darling created a highly unusual arts festival, Voorkamerfest. Every summer, townsfolk open up their homes and turn their front rooms into stages for musicians, dancers, actors and poets from around the world. The acts are limited to a strict half hour. Audiences are ferried between them in minibuses, which take different and unannounced routes, so the acts you see are pot luck.
This year's Voorkamerfest, which runs from Sept. 5-7, features enough acts for seven bus routes stopping at venues ranging from colonial bungalows to corrugated shacks. The performers include Belgian pop singer Eva de Roovere, Zimbabwean poet Outspoken and the French-Swiss-Indian dance combo of Isabelle Chaffaud, Jérôme Meyer and Surajit Das. That's white, black and brown, having fun together in the old apartheid heartland. Viva Evita! www.voorkamerfest-darling.co.za