Introducing the 2017 National Arts Festival Artistic Committee

Behind the Main programme of the 2017 National Arts Festival, which will be held in Grahamstown from 29 June to 9 July, is a 20-member Artistic Committee, experts in their fields who have been invited to collaborate and give input into creating a programme that is reflective of South Africa, aiming to challenge as well as entertain new and established audiences.


Work from both within and outside South Africa was considered, with the following criteria in mind: the artistic merits of the submission; the creation of a varied and balanced programme; and the costs involved.



The members of this genre’s sub-committee are:


  • Lara Bye –director, producer and educator
  • Greg Homann – director, independent academic and playwright
  • Mwenya Kabwe –director, theatre maker, actress and facilitator
  • Warona Seane – performer, director and writer (Convenor 2017)


“South Africa’s longstanding theatre tradition of creating new work that disrupts, challenges, and questions is alive and well. An unexpected connection across the theatre selection appears to be a fascination with bones, specifically how bones, as metaphor, can speak to South Africa’s ongoing need to come to terms with its troubled past.” – Greg Homann



The members of this genre’s sub-committee are:


  • Lliane Loots – choreographer and dance lecturer (UKZN School of the Arts)
  • Gregory Vuyani Maqoma – dancer, choreographer, director, and scriptwriter (Convenor 2017)
  • Tracey Saunders – arts critic and writer


“Social orders are at the core of the 2017 National Arts Festival Dance Programme, with some of the works responding directly to the theme of the art of disruption while in other works the theme is already embedded in the choreographer’s personal artistic aesthetics. The balance of power is shifting on a global scale – past events and, certainly, recent events bear testimony to something brewing under the surface and our art opens a window for reflection, to pause for a moment. In my selection, the focus has been first on South African artists producing by themselves or in collaboration with artists on the continent, focusing on the urgency to respond to the theme of disruption. The result is a programme that is curious, furious and a poetic game of different aesthetics, contexts and languages, oscillating between perception and attribution, between history and that is current and urgent.”  – Gregory Vuyani Maqoma



This members of this genre’s sub-committee are:


  • Richard Cock – musician and conductor
  • Samson Diamond – performer (violinist), lecturer at the University of the Free State, leader of the Odeion String Quartet (Convenor 2017)
  • Atiyyah Khan – Arts Journalist, DJ and co-founder of music collective Future Nostalgia
  • Patrick Tikolo – performer (baritone), Senior Lecturer and Head of Vocal Division at the South African College of Music at UCT
  • Alan Webster – director of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival (Convenor 2017)


“The 2017 classical music programme aims to challenge and broaden the spectrum, without diluting the theme.” – Samson Diamond



The members of this genre’s sub-committee are:


  • Ruth Simbao – Associate Professor in the Fine Art Department at Rhodes University
  • Mandie van der Spuy – art consultant, former Head of Arts Sponsorships for the Standard Bank Group 
  • Ernestine White – artist, curator and project manager (Convenor 2017)


“As the 2017 curator for the visual arts programme, my selection has been guided by the selected visual and performance artists nuanced interpretations of the Festival’s theme of ‘disruption’. At the core of the programme is the desire to unpack and showcase how these artists have chosen to actively engage and disrupt the prevailing colonial narratives that continue to impact on how we as (South) Africans relate to each other; interrogate received and forgotten histories in relation to landscape and identity; and to highlight the (in)visibility of women’s narratives in the context of public and private spaces.  Working within the genres of painting, sculpture performance, and installation, these contemporary artists explore intimate narratives that speak of personal and collective history, trauma, shame, loss and power relations. Lastly, it is hoped that the works presented this year will serve as platforms to unpack the dynamics of the contemporary lived experience.” –Ernestine White



Trevor Steele-Taylor has been curating film festivals since the 1970s, and he has a special interest in South African cinema. He is the curator of this year’s Film Festival.




This series of debates, conversations and lectures is convened by Anthea Garman (associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University) and managed by Kate Davies (Festival Manager). This year Think!Fest has been co-curated by the University of Johannesburg's Arts & Culture Division and Drama For Life at the University of the Witwatersrand. 


  • The chair of the committee is theatremaker Brett Bailey.
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