South Africa’s artists, theatre makers and musicians are responding to the challenges of living in a country in flux with genre-busting work that is provocative, innovative, engaging and entertaining. Some of the best of these productions will be showcased at this year’s National Arts Festival, to be held in Grahamstown from 29 June to 9 July this year.
Featuring new works from theatrical firebrands alongside Festival favourites such as the Gala Concert, presented this year by the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, visitors to this year’s Festival can expect a thrilling mix of new and familiar in a programme that both reflects and challenges South African society.
“Creative disruption has served as the backbone for building this year’s core programme – and the response has been extraordinary,” says National Arts Festival Executive Producer Ashraf Johaardien, who has been working with the 20-member Artistic Committee to put together this year’s programme.
The National Arts Festival is made up of a number of programmes and events, including the curated Main; the open-access Fringe; and the Arena, which gives award-winning works a platform at the continent’s biggest cultural event.
“A number of the works selected for the Main programme refuse to sit quietly in any one genre – and that will be the first clue that something is in flux,” says Johaardien. “Multi-sensory, immersive works that cut across disciplines signal a desire by the artists to engage audiences in new and unconventional ways. Other works will disrupt dominant historical narratives by offering new lenses for looking at the past and reclaiming stories previously relegated to the margins.”
This year’s FEATURED ARTIST is composer, musician and cultural activist Neo Muyanga, who will premiere solid(t)ary, a piece composed specifically for the Festival, exploring the notion of song within protest and revolt. The Neo Muyanga Trio will present a new collaborative music production with Andre Swartz, Peter Ndlala and guest Msaki. He will also host a talk on protest and creativity as part of the Think!Fest programme, a fascinating series of lectures, debates, and conversations that provide insight and opinion relevant to programmed events and wider topical issues.
Audiences are guaranteed nothing but brilliance from the winners of this year’s STANDARD BANK YOUNG ARTIST AWARDS: cellist Abel Selaocoe (Music); bassist and composer Benjamin Jephta (Jazz); choreographer and dancer Thandazile Radebe (Dance); playwright and director Monageng Motshabi (Theatre); sculptor Beth Diane Armstrong (Visual Art); and multimedia artist Dineo Bopape (Performance Art).
As well as showcasing works that serve and include new and diverse communities, the Festival continues to offer opportunities for high-quality performances from the country’s more established artists – look out for Sylvaine Strike, Jay Pather, Vincent Mantsoe, Vanessa Cooke, Rehane Abrahams, Dada Masilo, PJ Sabbagha and Craig Morris.
British stand-up comedian Stephen K Amos will be doing two shows in Grahamstown and there are two other UK acts on the Arena programme too: athletic comic duo The Pretend Men in the Fringe smash hit, POLICE COPS; and Louise Reay, fresh from the Brighton Fringe with IT’S ONLY BIRDS, “a comedy in Chinese for people who don’t speak any Chinese at all”.
“Despite a tough arts funding environment, the programme we’re able to offer still represents the cutting-edge of performance excellence in South Africa. Our artists, institutions and producers are doing amazing things in every corner of the country, and the programme that Ashraf and the Committee have shaped, will once again be a celebration of the best of this,” says Tony Lankester, the CEO of the National Arts Festival.
Hazel Chimhandamba, Head of Group Sponsorships for Standard Bank who have been long-standing sponsors of the festival says, “With the calibre of artists on the programme for the National Arts Festival this year, we can expect to be stirred by works that reflect creatively on our past, stimulate dialogue about our present, and inspire conversation about our collective dreams that drive innovation and change.”
In a Festival-first this year, a number of popular shows will open for pre-booking in the course of April – details will be communicated on the National Arts Festival social media channels.
Bookings – including pre-bookings – for all shows can be done via the secure National Arts Festival website at www.nationalartsfestival.co.za
The full programme will be available online when bookings open in early May at www.nationalartsfestival.co.za
Printed copies of the Festival programme will be available at selected Standard Bank and Exclusive Books branches.
The programme and other useful information about the Festival will also be available on a user-friendly app, available for IOS and Android.