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Boost for National Arts Festival in Makhanda as Covid-19 curbs lifted

Performers at the National Arts Festival's 2022 opening. Picture: Mark Wessels

Performers at the National Arts Festival's 2022 opening. Picture: Mark Wessels

Published Jun 25, 2022

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Cape Town - The relaxed Covid-19 curbs on gatherings and travelling may be just what the National Arts Festival in Makhanda needed as it prepares to welcome back visitors for the cultural feast following the disappointment of two years without its annual flagship event.

With June 23 to July 3 set for the festival, the mood is one of excitement, but also anticipation, as the arts gathering enters a new chapter, in a new time. The festival has, in previous years, brought around R90 million into the Eastern Cape city. For some, it’s a festive celebration but for many, there is an opportunity for income generation, either directly with the festival or in surrounding businesses.

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“If enthusiasm is a yardstick, this is going to be a great festival, but on the ground it’s difficult to predict what the turn out will ultimately be. We’re optimistic, but measuring our expectations, in these tough economic times. It’s very encouraging to see that the accommodation establishments across town are reporting brisk bookings and there is definitely activity at the box office, so it’s apparent that the hunger for a live, immersive experience is calling festival-goers back,” said National Arts Festival executive officer Monica Newton.

Performers at the National Arts Festival's 2022 opening. Picture: Mark Wessels

Makhanda remains water-stressed and visitors have been asked to conserve water carefully during their stay.

Just over R18 million’s worth of road replacement and resurfacing work commenced in Makhanda in 2021, with a focus on the city centre and Joza suburb.

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Business has also been active in instigating changes, with internet fibre suppliers Vox Enterprise and supplier development partner, 51% black-owned EcoLogic, partnering with a local service provider to repair potholes in the city.

Organisers said anticipated load-shedding over the weekend was set to add a layer of complexity to the programme schedule but the festival navigated load-shedding in previous years and some of the festival's venues were equipped with generators. Venues without generators will work with emergency lighting where possible or the shows will be rescheduled.

Makhanda Mayor Yandiswa Vara said: “We look forward to welcoming back the artists and cultural audiences who inject such positive, creative energy into the city during festival time. The city has been preparing, and working hard with our partners in business and community, to ensure that the City is safe and clean for the event but also, as we strive to reinvigorate Makhanda.”

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Makhanda’s Executive Mayor, Yandiswa Vara speaks at the 2022 National Arts Festival Opening Ceremony. Picture: Mark Wessels

Artists have also joined in to improve the city for visitors and residents.

Winner of the 2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art award, Gavin Krastin, has already begun performing his National Arts Festival piece, 12 Labours, which swops the mythological masculine hero of war for modern heroes who commit acts of service in their communities. A group of brightly coloured gnomes have been spotted planting verges and painting bus stops on weekends in the City.

For more information visit https://nationalartsfestival.co.za/

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Cape Times

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