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Stage set at NAF after 2-year break

The story of Nongqawuse, the Xhosa prophet, is one of the most popular shows this year.

The story of Nongqawuse, the Xhosa prophet, is one of the most popular shows this year.

Published Jun 30, 2022


Cape Town - It was a celebratory week at the National Arts Festival (NAF) with the welcome news that South Africans were no longer required to wear masks.

Traders on the Village Green reported a robust start to the festival as rainy weather cleared and the sun came out over the weekend. Not even load shedding could dampen the mood at the festival hub, the Monument, as generators kept the lights on for more than 900 fans who packed the Guy Butler Theatre for a once-off Ringo Madlingozi concert on Saturday. Previously capped at 50% capacity, the show sold an additional 400 tickets in less than 24 hours when venue capacity restrictions were lifted.

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The 2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, Thando Doni’s work ‘Ngqawuse’, questions the decisions of the past and how those decisions affect people today. The play is influenced by the story of Xhosa prophet Nongqawuse, whose visions spurred the cattle killings of 1856/7 and resultant famine. Borrowing aesthetics from African ritual, music, song and dance. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

2021 Standard Bank Visual Artist Buhlebezwe Siwani opened her three exhibitions inspired by the artist’s deep relationship with the natural world and Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art Gavin Krastin opened his work “12 Labours”; an insightful exploration of contemporary definitions of the heroic. Cara Stacey, the Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, performed her piece “Transbordamento” with Mozambican musician Matchume Zango.

Other hit works included “Bloke and His American Bantu”, written by Siphiwo Mahala and directed by Sello Maake kaNcube. The play studies the long-distance friendship of writers Langston Hughes and Bloke Modisani.

Zip-Zap Circus’s “Moya” was a treat for families and audiences got to laugh without a mask with the return of the “Very Big Comedy Show” with a line-up that included Kagiso ‘KG’ Mokgadi, Stuart Taylor, Rob van Vuuren, Kate Pinchuck and more.

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‘Ngqawuse’ is a story of love and sacrifice, doom and misery, and asks questions of what to do with the untreated wounds of history. Picture: Phando Jikelo /African News Agency (ANA)

Festival chief executive Monica Newton said they were very pleased with the turnout.

“It was difficult to know what to expect after a two-year hiatus, but it’s evident that arts lovers were ready to get back into theatres and galleries and the arts community couldn’t be more happy to be back on stage with a live audience. Everyone is feeling positive that the arts will thrive again.”

Newton said it was too soon to share ticket numbers as they were constantly changing.

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Although load shedding was an unwelcome inconvenience, the organisers were able to mitigate the fallout through a combination of generators, emergency lighting and schedule juggling, Newton said.

The festival has traditionally been a big revenue driver for tourism and hospitality.

Speaking at a NAF media brunch on Monday, Eastern Cape Tourism chief executive Vuyani Dyamani, welcomed the live festival back to the Eastern Cape.

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He said that the province had seen growth in tourism of over a million visitors during 2020 but he hoped that these numbers would grow even further with the return of events that usually bring a collective 1 million visitors to the province.

In Makhanda, accommodation was particularly scarce on the opening weekend and flights are at a premium.

A full programme lies ahead with shows including singer Amanda Black, the Eastern Cape Philharmonic and Cape Town Opera, Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance Kristi-Leigh Gresse’s “Purgatory – A Working Title” and Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre Thando Doni performing his work, “Ngqawuse”.

Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz Vuma Levin will also perform at the National Jazz Festival alongside a host of international musicians.

This weekend will also see more acrobatic circus acts from Urban Circus and works from international artists Clara Delorme of Switzerland and Criminal Tribes Act Extended, a work that forms part of the multinational collaborative “Portals Next” series.

The Fringe is packed with shows across all genres including comedy, visual arts, music, theatre and dance, with Standard Bank Ovation Awards being handed to outstanding works that emerge from the Fringe.

Artists will be on stage exercising their creative right to express their work and audiences will be celebrating their freedom and enjoyment as the National Arts Festival brings the arts home.

The National Arts Festival runs until July 3.

To access the programme and for ticket bookings, visit

Cape Times

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