South African Cultural Observatory

It’s all systems go for the 45th National Arts Festival

BY 27.06.19

It’s all systems go for the opening of the 45th National Arts Festival in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) today, with the curtain going up an a wide array of productions and performances on Thursday 27 June.

The Festival is an important event in South Africa’s arts eco-system and provides a vital platform for artists to express themselves and read the heartbeat of the nation. As NAF Acting Executive Producer Nobesuthu Rayi says, “Artists are like the imbongis of our culture. Just as a chief might traditionally hear from the imbongi about the mood of the people, so our artists are now reading the mood of the nation. They are our interpreters and we need to value them and let them be heard.”

The voices of this year’s artists are loudest on topics such as identity, place and land. These themes run through many productions, and are treated in many different ways to form a picture of a country fighting to claim a positive identity that encompasses the many things we are, and to begin crafting a new narrative for our future.

Endless creativity

With over 500 productions on the programme and thousands of shows, talks, workshops, artists walkabouts, street performances and more, audiences are spoiled for choice as they face an 11-day programme packed with endless creativity and inspiration.

The town has also been hard at work preparing for the Festival with scores of volunteers and special service providers from the private sector working with the local municipality to set the scene, and ensure a safe and comfortable stay for the visitors.

Says Festival CEO Tony Lankester: “Our planning for the Festival is year-round and so, after many days and nights of preparation, we are now ready to receive our visitors. Many have asked about the water situation and we would like to assure everyone that we are confident that we will meet the needs of both residents and visitors during the Festival. It’s time to celebrate and to go on a journey with our artists.”

The Festival will opened this morning with a flag raising ceremony and Khoisan and pantsula performances from 8am outside the Monument in Makhanda.

For more information and a copy of the programme, click here.

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