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World s greatest choir arrives
The West Australian Pix of Eight members of the Cape Town Opera Chorus who also are part of the Voice of the Nation. Picture: Ian Munro /The West Australian

We have sent Premier Colin Barnett and the Australian cricket team to South Africa.

In return, Perth is getting the world's greatest choir, the Voice of the Nation Ensemble, the five-star international hit play Mies Julie and esteemed artist William Kentridge.

In a fascinating cultural trade, a strong contingent of South African artistic talent has crossed the Indian Ocean to appear in the Perth International Arts Festival.

It is a perfect storm of coincidence and opportunity, capped by the opening in cinemas this week of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the biopic about the late South African statesman Nelson Mandela

"The tremendous sadness around the passing of Nelson Mandela has heightened all of our awareness of South Africa's place in the world and its current political situation," Festival artistic director Jonathan Holloway said.

Perth had a big South African expatriate community and it was important for the Festival to engage with an important country that shared the same ocean, Mr Holloway said.

South Africa had undergone momentous change since the apartheid era and its artists were exploring major issues in potent ways.

"I have a sense that the best art in the world comes from places where people have not been allowed to express themselves for a long period of time and then do get that chance to express themselves," he said.

The Voice of the Nation, drawn from the ranks of the Cape Town Opera, was judged the Chorus of the Year at the 2013 International Opera Awards.

Ensemble member Andile Tshoni said such international accolades and the chance to appear at arts festivals around the world were great exposure for South African artists.

"Sometimes artists are not recognised at home until they are successful overseas," Tshoni said.

"When they come back home, people realise that we have such an enormous amount of talent."

Tshoni is among eight chorus members singing as guests in the WA Opera chorus in the tri-nation production of Otello. The rest of the 24-voice choir will join them at the weekend ahead of a performance of African, European and American spirituals at the Perth Concert Hall on Monday.

Mies Julie comes to Perth on the back of a rare five-star review from tough New York Times critic Ben Brantley.

Mies Julie adapts Swedish writer August Strindberg's 1880s battle-of-the-sexes play Miss Julie into an interracial power struggle set on the evening of Freedom Day in 2012, a celebration of Mr Mandela's 1994 election which established the Rainbow Nation.

Kentridge's The Refusal of Time art installation, opening at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art next week, combines video, theatre, music, animation and a sculptural "breathing machine".