Mamela Nyamza in Hatched. Picture: Sydelle Willow Smith

Paging through the thick National Arts Festival programme book, one almost gets a shiver down the spine seeing the multitude of events that will be unpacked during 11 culturally saturated days in Grahamstown.

Every year, for the past 44 years, the university town takes on an amazing vibe for the last week of June as thousands converge to take in the arts in every way, shape and form, and this year's no different. 

Well, maybe that's not entirely true, as it's different in the sense of being bigger, that the hiccups from the previous year get ironed out and that there's a host of new elements.

If there is only one word that could best describe what's on offer this year it would be provocative - getting audiences to look at performance and visual arts differently. 

Buhle Ngaba and Klara van Wyk in La Chair de Ma Chair. Picture: Marcelo Bassi

Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa couldn't put it better, "It's where, as South Africans, we can be comfortable exploring who we are and being bold about we stand for. It is where artists speak truth to power and where we give meaning to our constitutional principles of free speech and free expression."

Innovate and refresh are the words that also come to mind, and, as Eastern Cape MEC for Sport Recreation and Culture Bulelwa Tuniswa says, it's all about "giving voice to the voiceless in our society" - with many unsung heroes finally getting exposure.