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Art communities are hungry for real-life experiences, says NAF CEO Monica Newton

The 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists. Picture: Supplied

The 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists. Picture: Supplied

Published May 22, 2022


This year marks the first full live event of the National Arts Festival’s hometown of Makhanda after a two-year hiatus.

The art, theatre and music fraternities will come together for the first time since Covid-19 hit our shores in 2020.

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The festival CEO Monica Newton says hosting an event of this magnitude under the strict Covid-19 regulations has been an “adventure”, however, she and her team are ready to welcome the audiences and artists back to the live stages.

“A festival isn’t just about the shows, it’s also the experience of being together in a small town, the road trip to get there and back, meeting new people, exploring and spontaneously discovering new things,” Newton says.

“Our audience and artist communities have told us they are hungry for a real-life experience again. Having said this, we do have audiences who want to join us virtually, so we have an online programme too and will be streaming some of our big shows.

“Makhanda has really missed the festival, both in terms of the economic injection and the chance to host our creative visitors. It will be good to feel the buzz in our home town once again.

“We’re looking forward to seeing artists, technicians, the traders at the Village Green and the audiences arriving in the town.

Scenes at the Village Green. Picture: Jan Potgieter

Elaborating on lessons learnt from the past two years that the organisation will carry into the future, Newton says, “As an organisation we’ve done a big digital transformation, moving away from paper processes and outputs for almost everything – which has streamlined and centralised our operations.

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“We also saw that we have incredibly loyal National Arts Festival supporters locally and across the globe who have been on this journey with us. We learnt that making work for online goes beyond filming a live work, it’s a genre and idea of its own.

“Technology is heading into highly experiential and sentient spaces, not to mention the rise of gaming and younger generations are likely to influence the arts significantly in future.

"It’s also evident that genres and even whole sectors are collapsing into a more intersectional space. These are very interesting times and the festival will continue to evolve to remain accessible, relevant and supportive of the arts.

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She says all health and safety protocols will be strictly enforced. This comes in light of the rapid increase of Covid-19 cases in the country.

Fans can look forward to exciting storytelling, theatre productions, dance, comedy shows, live jazz performances, visual art exhibition and then some.

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Koleka Putuma’s ‘Hullo, Buy-Bye, Koko, Come In’. Picture: Sara CF de Gouveia

“Just as a taste of it, we’ll be presenting Sello Maake kaNcube’s directorial piece ‘Bloke and His American Bantu’ and Koleka Putuma’s ‘Hullo Bu-Bye Koko Come In’.

“Multiple award-winning actress Sandra Prinsloo is on our stage with Kamphoer, Wezile Harmans presents ‘We Regret to Inform You’ and Janni Younge returns to NAF with a new interpretation of ‘Hamlet’, performed through life-sized puppets, with the role of Claudius performed by Andrew Buckland.

“The Standard Bank Young Artist (SBYA) will be a big highlight as always. 2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, Gavin Krastin, will present ‘12 Labours’ which will take place in public spaces in Makhanda.

Gavin Krastin’s ‘12 Labours’. Picture: Evaan Jason Ferreira

Buhlebezwe Siwane (SBYA for Visual Art) presents ‘iYeza’ which reflects on the artist’s own journey as an indigenous healer.

"Dance SBYA, Kristi-Leigh Gresse starts a conversation through movement on the inertia surrounding South Africa’s progress with ‘Purgatory’ and Vuma Levin (SBYA for Jazz)and SBYA for Music, Cara Stacey; will both present inspiring work on the programme.

“Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, Thando Doni, will stage a fascinating work ‘Ngqawuse’, about the Xhosa prophetess Nongqawuse, whose visions spurred the cattle killings of 1856/7 and resultant famine. And of course there are many more.”

NAF has this week, announced new additions to its 2022 programme with one night only concerts from Amanda Black, Ringo Madlingozi and Bongeziwe Mabandla.

The 48th National Arts Festival returns with a full live format in Makhanda from June 23 until July 3.

For ticket prices and information on the festival visit the website.