2017 Award winners honoured at National Arts Festival

This release consists of announcements for the:

  • 2017 Standard Bank Ovation Awards
  • Insights into the winning works
  • 2017 Student Theatre Awards 

Please refer to the image gallery for photographs https://nationalartsfestival.prezly.com/media 


More than two hundred productions premiered on the Fringe at The National Arts Festival this year, it was no easy feat for the Ovations Awards panel to make their way through the Festival’s theatres to select work that stood out and made audiences stand up.


Tracey Saunders, convenor of the 2017 panel, said that the range of work on offer was diverse – from delicate, solo work to large, chaotic ensembles and several permutations in between. “A willingness to take risks was evident in many productions and in several instances it paid off. Exciting work came from unexpected places and if the Fringe reflects the state of the performing arts in the country, it is bold, vibrant and angry.”


Read on for Tracey Saunders’ insights into the award winning work at the 2017 National Arts Festival and further for news of the Student Theatre Award winners.


Here are the 2017 Standard Bank Ovation Award winners:




HANI: THE LEGACY by Market Theatre Laboratory    (Theatre)

TAU by One Man and His Dog and The Market Theatre  (Theatre)





BAYEPHI by Thembela Madliki  (Theatre)

HUMAN PIECES II by The South African Theatre Village  (Theatre)

IN(S)KIN by Artscape  (Theatre)

SILENT SCARS by Calvin Ratladi Foundation/Zabalaza Theatre Festival  (Theatre)

TATS NKONZO IS PRIVILEGED by ExploSIV Productions  (Comedy)




180 PUNCHLINES! (THREE LAUGHS A MINUTE) by Alan Committie  (Comedy)

ACOUSTIC ME by LoveChild  (Music)

AGONY by Thistle Productions  (Theatre)

AU REVOIR by Followspot Productions  (Comedy)

CATTLE DRIVE by Theatre for Africa  (Theatre)



DIKAPAPA by Generation of Stars  (Physical Theatre)

DOWN TO A SUNLESS SEA by Wind Up Mind  (Dance)


FIRE HOUSE by Hijinks Theatre  (Theatre)

FLAMEBOOK by Jo Kinda – MDALI  (Theatre)


MOLORA by Tshwane University of Technology  (Theatre)

NIJINSKY’S WAR by Leftfoot Productions  (Theatre)


STATE FRACTURE by ExploSIV Productions  (Comedy)

SYRIA? by Artscape (Theatre)

THE DEVIL AND BILLY MARKHAM by Contagious  (Theatre)

THE KAFFIRS by Gauteng Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts & Culture  (Theatre)

WELCOME TO THE ZOO by ZikkaZimba and Hijinks Theatre  (Theatre)





Encore Award for BATTLES! – IIMFAZWE!   (Storytelling Tour)

Encore Award for MOMENTUM by the 34/18 Youth Dance Company (Dance)

Encore Award for OPERA FOUND (Classical Music)

Encore Award for SINGING CHAMELEON by Ditshimega Domain (Storytelling/Performance Art)

Encore Award for SPIRITUAL WALK  (Theatre)


Merit Award for KUBILI (TWO) by Musa Hlatshwayo/Mhayise Productions (Dance)


Stand Out Performance by Daniel Richards in STATE FRACTURE  (Comedy)





Standing Ovation was awarded to musician Steve Newman

Standing Ovation was awarded to Tony Lankester to mark 10 years National Arts Festival CEO



Insights into the works on the National Arts Festival Fringe and winning Standard Bank Ovation Awards, from the 2017 panel convenor of the Standard Bank Ovation Awards:


Many of the theatre productions addressed political themes and interrogated the absence of social justice. Through the eyes of a child in IZIM LE TOILET, students in WELCOME TO THE ZOO and the widows of miners in A WOMEN’S TEARS, frustration and a quest for justice were unifying features.


There was a palpable anger in much of the work and the scourge of sexual violence and femicide was addressed on stage by many actors.  In the comedy genre identity politics and the unique character of South Africans provided ample material for comedians but the ones that struck a chord were those that sourced the punchline from their own lived experience.


Our collective and individual pasts were scrutinised and excavated with the retelling of our history and the reclamation of neglected narratives a dominant theme.


The Gold winning HANI: THE LEGACY was a heart wrenching and soul searching portrayal of Hani’s life and the failed responsibility we bear in not honouring it. The hip-hop, rap musical was flawless in its delivery and careful attention to detail from the torn rainbows on costumes to the slick choreography ensured that this production received resounding standing ovations.


TAU’S exploration of masculinity through a very specific cultural practice reflected a universal search for a less toxic masculine identity. Bold, unapologetic and confident enough to not present a happy ending, this was a powerful production that resonated with audiences regardless of the language they spoke.


The recipients of the Gold and Silver Ovation Awards are testament to the benefit of investing resources, both financial and creative, in young theatre makers. TAU, HANI: THE LEGACY, SYRIA, IN(S)KIN and SILENT SCARS have received some support from The Market Theatre, Artscape, the State Theatre and the Baxter Theatre respectively The responsibility of these institutions to develop and nurture work cannot be stressed enough and the model of supporting existing independent production companies and theatre makers is essential if productions such as these are to see a life beyond the Fringe .


Although Fringe participants didn’t necessarily respond to the curated theme of disruption what was evident was the disruption of genres with the seamless integration of choreography into many theatre productions and the heightened theatricality evident in dance and some musical works.


Artists working on the Fringe occupy a unique space and they have generously shared their vantage point with us. As they point us to the direction that the performing arts is headed to in South Africa, they beckon us to venture forth towards new horizons. It may not always be a comfortable journey, but it sure as hell is going to be exciting. I’m keen to accept the invitation, will you?


The 2017 panel was convened by Tracey Saunders. Panel members were Jade Bowers, Lara Bye, Motlatji Ditodi, Mhlanguli George, Caryn Green, Mwenya Kabwe, Lliane Loots, Zanele Madiba, Alby Michaels, Jayne Morgan, Nobesuthu Rayi, Sarah Roberson, Warona Seane, Mareli Stolp, Hugo Theart, Simon Tibbs and Lee-Ann van Rooi.



The Student Theatre Awards


This year the Student Fest was integrated into the Fringe. The NAF Festival Office said, “the aim of this was to provide a realistic experience of performing at a Festival”. The productions therefore needed to follow the rules of the Fringe and meet the demands of the tight technical rehearsal schedule, and they had to make choices that sat well within the spatial limitations of their respective Fringe venues.


Convenor of the Student Theatre Advisory Panel, Greg Homann said, “The work presented on the Student Festival this year was generally of a high level with most of the students choosing to create new plays that explore issues close to their lived experience. We saw many excellent performances and some incredibly impressive ensemble work.”


Student Festival Awards go to:


Student Theatre Award for Best Production:

MOLORA from Tshwane University of Technology’s Drama & Film Department

Directed by Kopano Maema


Student Theatre Award for Best Original Work:

CULT CLIT from Rhodes University Drama Department

Directed by Mmatumisang Motsisi


Student Theatre Merit Award for Original Work:

POP ICHERI from The Market Theatre Laboratory 

Written by Ncumisa Ndimeni & Nosipho Buthelezi


Award for Best Stage Manager:

Manoko Tlhako from Rhodes University Drama Department


Student Theatre Award for Best Marketing & Publicity for a Student Theatre Production:

Not awarded in 2017


MOLORA was an excellent staging of Yaël Farber’s text, with the ensemble cast and creative team integrating strong choreographic elements, superb ensemble vocal work and singing, with a clear commitment to telling the story. CULT CLIT impressed with its clear vision and unified team. Here the choreography, design and tight performance ensemble elements worked harmoniously to create an entirely cohesive and powerful original theatre production.


The student advisory team made special mention of POP ICHERI from the Market Theatre’s Lab. Homann said, “This work made use of strong ensemble work, clear storytelling, and a good sense of theatrical style to explore the issue of awarding ‘virgin bursaries’ to university students.”


Special mention was also made of THE CITIZEN created by students from Law, Accounting, and other departments across the University of the Western Cape. These students collaborated with the Gender Equity Unit at the University of the Western Cape to create a work that encapsulates a commitment to using theatre as a platform for students to explore their own personal experiences and narratives, and in so doing, to empower themselves and the audience who saw the work.


The Student Festival’s advisory team this year included Mwenya Kabwe, Tracey Saunders, Lara Bye, Thami akaMbongo, Liiane Loots, and Nobesuthu Rayi. It was headed up by Greg Homann. Only work created by students was eligible for awards.








The National Arts Festival is grateful to: the Department of Arts and Culture, Eastern Cape Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture and the Office of the Premier, and Standard Bank of South Africa. Media partners include MNET and City Press.


Now in its 43rd year, the National Arts Festival is the largest and longest-running celebration of the arts on the African content. It is held annually in the small university city of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, 130km from Port Elizabeth.

The programme comprises drama, dance, physical theatre, comedy, opera, music, jazz, visual art exhibitions, film, student theatre, street theatre, lectures, craft fair, workshops, as well as a children’s arts festival.


The Artistic Committee, comprising experts in various disciplines, selects the content of the Main programme. Work from both within and outside South Africa is considered, with the following criteria in mind: the artistic merits of any submission; the creation of a varied and balanced programme; and the costs involved.


Sascha Polkey
Rabbit in the Hat

About National Arts Festival

The National Arts Festival is an important event on the South African cultural calendar and the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent.

The 2017 National Arts Festival runs for 11 days from 29 June - 9 July and is held in the small university city of Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, 130 km from Port Elizabeth.

The Festival consists of a Main and Fringe programme both administered by the National Arts Festival Office. The full programme comprises drama, dance, physical theatre, comedy, opera, music, jazz, visual art exhibitions, film, student theatre, street theatre, lectures, craft fair, workshops, tours (of the city and surrounding historic places) and a children’s arts festival.

The event has always been open to all regardless of race, colour, sex or creed. As no censorship or artistic restraint has ever been imposed on works presented in Grahamstown, the Festival served as an important forum for political and protest theatre during the height of the apartheid era, and it still offers an opportunity for experimentation across the arts spectrum. Its significance as a forum for new ideas and an indicator of future trends in the arts cannot be underestimated.

The National Arts Festival is grateful to the Department of Arts and Culture, Eastern Cape Provincial Government, M-Net and Standard Bank of South Africa.

National Arts Festival
National Arts Festival
PO Box 304
Grahamstown, Ec 6140
South Africa