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Dizzy dancing in Turkey and other cultural highlights

Dizzy dancing in Turkey

From whirling dervishes to explicit photographs: our pick of the season’s cultural highlights

From whirling dervishes to explicit photographs: our pick of the season’s cultural highlights

December/January 2019

Konya Dizzy dancing

December 10th–18th, Whirling Dervishes Festival
On December 17th more than 700 years ago, the Sufi poet Rumi died. To commemorate his “marriage to Allah”, his followers – and well-wishers from around the world – celebrate his “wedding night” with an unusual party held in the Turkish city that houses his tomb. Drummers and a reed player set the pace, as dervishes, looking like brides in their demure white frocks, imitate the dance that Rumi taught them. They twirl like spinning tops, mimicking the circuit of blood through the body and the planets round the sun.

LONDON THE CYCLE OF LIFE

January 26th–March 31st
Often dubbed the “Rembrandt of the video age”, Bill Viola makes monumental – if slow-moving – films about the angst of human existence. Now the Royal Academy will be acting as matchmaker, pairing 12 of his installations with a selection of drawings and a sculpture by another old master, Michelangelo. Nearly half a millennium separates the two artists, yet as their work shows, they share a preoccupation with the eternal questions of life, death and whatever comes next.

AHMEDABAD SWEPT AWAY

January 6th–14th
For the past 30 years, the skies of Gujarat have filled with colour during the International Kite Festival, known as Uttarayan, the Hindu celebration of winter’s transition to summer. Kite enthusiasts come from across the world to show off their designs, which range from the traditional to the high-tech, and to cut the strings of their rivals in airborne battles. The festival still maintains its regional character. Gujaratis gather on rooftops to watch the crafty carnage and glimpse perennial attractions, such as 500 kites dangling from a single string. Don’t worry if you can’t bring your own kite: you can make your own using supplies bought at Ahmedabad’s designated kite market, the Patang Bazaar, which is open all hours in the preceding week.

CAPE TOWN Bard in the park

January 17th–March 10th
On summer evenings on the southern tip of Africa, Capetonian theatre fans pack picnics and set out to enjoy Shakespeare under the stars. Every year since 1956 the Maynardville Open-Air Festival has staged his plays in a wooded park. The festival has recently expanded to include ballet, opera, gospel music and comedy. This season’s Shakespeare offering will be “Richard III”, the classic tale of a villain-king that holds extra resonance in a country emerging from a winter of power struggles. The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra opens the festival and stand-up comics from the Cape Town Comedy Club will entertain as jesters in the park.

New York Erotic shocks

January 25th–July 10th
Robert Mapplethorpe used to be considered a pariah. His explicit photographs of gay sex and the S&M underground inflamed America’s culture wars in the late 1980s, and museums dropped his work for fear of protests. Now, 30 years after his death at 42, he has evidently entered the canon, with a biopic, soaring auction prices and major retrospectives. The Guggenheim in New York, which holds one of the largest collections of his work, will celebrate the man and his legacy throughout 2019. In this image-saturated era of ready pornography, his sculptural and often luminous photos still have the power to shock.