Insights and inspiration at the National Arts Festival 2017

Thursday, July 6, 2017 — The National Arts Festival is approaching its closing weekend with a line-up of exciting shows, including the sold-out GALA CONCERT and the works of Standard Bank Young Artist’s Monageng ‘Vice’ Motshabi (theatre), Benjamin Jephta (jazz), Beth Diane Armstrong (visual art) and Dineo Seshee Bopape (performance art). Johannesburg Youth Ballet’s, MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM also lies ahead, fusing tradition with a vibrant twist and a range of comedy, music, dance, visual art and more await audiences who are making the trip.


Festival-goers have dosed up on the cultural binge since it opened on 29 June, and the general feeling is that South African talent is out in full force, with several shows bagging Standard Bank Ovation Awards. Work on this year’s programme has focused strongly on identity, memory and reimagining possible futures. Whether in passionate performances or stand-up comedy, audiences have displayed deep empathy with the idiosyncrasies, challenges and hurts that have been put on the table to mirror a nation in flux.


Helen Leigh, from England, is currently travelling solo in South Africa and heard about the National Arts Festival from friends. “It’s really nice to sit next to somebody and say hello and the next minute you’re talking about all the shows that you’ve seen. All the shows that I’ve seen have been on recommendation from other people that I’ve met.”


Jared Reddy, who is visiting from Pretoria, described the Festival as “life-changing” and called for more of the same, “There is a variety of different cultures here. There are so many different races and people are just meshing. It’s not a race thing, it’s not a status thing, it’s about that common ground which is art.”


Gaza Khosa, who watched a lot of comedy, noted that there was also great food at the Festival including African cuisine.


Erin de Cock, an arts student in Grahamstown commented that the Festival gave “Insight into South Africa’s socio-political circumstances at the moment, especially from an intersectional perspective.”


New National Arts Festival Executive Producer Ashraf Johaardien, said that the Festival was an intense experience for performers and audiences and described it as cathartic. “It feels like the right place to share, to shout, to express ourselves in a way that we can’t always do in ordinary, everyday life and it is perhaps for that reason that people’s social barriers go down. I have been in audiences where you could have heard a pin drop there was so much emotional investment in the performance - from both sides. We have so many stories to tell in South Africa and the Festival gives us multiple platforms to tell them on.”


This was the inaugural Festival for Johaardien, who has been gathering ideas for the next one, “I am very inspired. My head is already in 2018!” The call for entry for the National Arts Festival’s Main Programme 2018 closes on 31 July 2017.


The National Arts Festival 2017 will close on 9 July.




The National Arts Festival’s programme is online and available for booking on the site


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

083 414 0552
021 300 0052

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