Back in 1984, when the National Arts Festival (NAF) was still a much smaller event that took place over a weekend in a small town of Grahamstown, now known as Makhanda, Standard Bank decided to join forces with the festival.
They came on board as its headline sponsor and has since helped grow the NAF brand to become an internationally recognised 11-day festival that’s launched the careers of many artists across the country.
In June the bank announced that they will no longer be sponsoring the National Jazz Festival and the Youth Jazz Festival, raising concerns about the future of jazz at NAF.
Headlined by local and international musicians including AusTebza, Sibusiso Mashiloane, Mbuso Khoza, Xavi Torres, Bokani Dyer, Benjamin Jephta, Tutu Puoane, Vuma Levin, Kyle Shepherd, Mthunzi Mvubu served as a reunion for jazz musicians and jazz lovers who will come to together to celebrate and share their love for the jazz, after a two-year break.
Elaborating on what Standard Bank will sponsor, CEO of the National Arts Festival Monica Newton said: “So the bank has for many years been a presenting sponsor and in doing so they join Eastern Cape Provincial Government and the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture, and they essentially contribute to the festival as a whole.
“So that sort of presenting sponsor bucket basically covers all of the things that we do at the National Arts Festival.”
Newtown further explained that the bank will continue to sponsor Young Artist Awards and Standing Ovations for the next three years.
“We also have specific properties, that the bank supports; the Standard Bank Young Artists, which is probably one of the longest standing and most prestigious arts awards in the country.
“Been going now 41 years is with the bank’s support and of course, the Standard Bank Ovation Awards which recognises excellence on the fringe. So the Jazz is not being sponsored by Standard Bank this year. Having said that, the bank has a real presence here with us.
“They continue to work with us. We have a three-year partnership going forward into our 50-year celebration in 2024. So it's probably one of the longest-serving arts sponsorships in the country that I'm aware of.
“And our partnership is strong. It grows, it changes, it moves with the times, and it needs to respond to what the bank is is requiring from us.
“But really, we are really pleased to still have Standard Bank as a sponsor, especially as we head out of this Covid patch and into what we hope will be a rebirth reimagining of the National Arts Festival hitting towards our audience.”
Head of Sponsorship at Standard Bank, Desiree Pooe, added that the arts remain a priority for the bank.
“We understand the impact that the last few years have had on the arts landscape. Fortunately, we were able to continue to fund the arts sponsorships through those two periods of time,” said Pooe.
“And coming out of that and reconstructing to reflect on finding new ways to make dreams possible. It became important to cover the full landscape and fund essentially the National Arts Festival as a presenting sponsor.
And, of course, the two platforms are programs that allow us to showcase the exceptional talent within the various categories.”
Reflecting on the past three decades, Newton says the National Jazz Festival remains the focal point of the festival.
“We are in it for the next decade or three, the National Arts Festival continues, it matters and we will do everything that we can to leading up to our 50th and 50 years beyond that.
“To make sure that we continue to be the place for the arts, in whatever form that may be, in whatever way that is appropriate. And also to allow the festival to evolve along with the arts, for it to grow and change as its context, as its artists, as its stories grow and change.
“We’re planning a long-term career here, so, not to worry, we’re not going anywhere. And of course, for any of you that have any concerns, Jazz continues to be important to the festival, it always has been, and so it will always be part of the program,” said Newton.