’Gat innie Grond, Wond in My Siel (Hole in the Ground, Wound in my Soul)’. Pitcture: Supplied
’Gat innie Grond, Wond in My Siel (Hole in the Ground, Wound in my Soul)’. Pitcture: Supplied

National Arts Festival 2021, it’s a wrap but the show goes on

By Kedibone Modise Time of article published Aug 3, 2021

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The show goes on although the curtain has closed for National Arts Festival (NAF) 2021.

The NAF officially wrapped up on Sunday, July 31, after a month-long celebration of performing arts, which included dance music, theatre, jazz concerts, comedy as well as discussion forums.

The NAF committee, organisers, artists, musicians and performers have risen to the challenge to ensure the success of the 47th NAF, which took place in Makhanda.

Following on from last year's unprecedented virtual reign, NAF wanted to give fans across the world a taste of African arts and heritage through storytelling, virtual arts, music and, at the same, give local fans access to much-awaited live shows.

However, the dream for a hybrid festival was short-lived after President Ramaphosa announced stricter lockdown regulations, which among other things prohibited social gatherings, two weeks before the festival was set to kickoff.

Although the live shows were cancelled due to level 4 restrictions, the festival organisers, artists and the technical team worked tirelessly to ensure that the show went on, so to speak.

In conversation with NAF chief executive Monica Newton, she says the event was a success despite the challenges they initially encountered.

“The timeline was the toughest part by far. We had just ten days to shift from a hybrid festival in Makhanda to a fully online event.

’It was all hands on deck to film shows and repackage our marketing plans and reorientate teams,” says Newton.

“It was very stressful and losing the live element we had hoped for was really disappointing for audiences and artists alike,” she said.

“The highlight was that artists worked, were seen and continued creating.

“The festival was also warmly received by local and international audiences, these are essential elements to keeping the arts ecosystem alive.”

Newton says NAF’s goal is to “support artists and give them a space to perform and provide a space where audiences could come to see them” and she’s delighted to announce that the goal was achieved even during the global pandemic.

’Old Soul Waiting’. Picture: Hymie Sokupha.

This year marked the second instalment of the virtual festival and Newton says she’s proud of her team and sponsors as they celebrate another successful online event.

“There was an incredible sense of community between artists who supported each other’s shows.

“Artists were willing to be agile and worked fast and professionally to make their work fit the space.”

Newton adds that the online event brought a brand new audience, both locally and abroad.

“As we did last year, the festival team, artists and technicians also pushed the boundaries of what was created in and for online spaces.

“We presented a major programme of live-streamed work this year which had pointed to incredible opportunities for collaborating across space and time locally and internationally.”

She highlighted that artists are also becoming “better and better at creating and presenting” works for online consumption.

“Unlike live festivals though, we don’t have a captive audience who has the time to watch multiple shows in a single day.

“Our online audience is watching at a time that is convenient to them, and we as the festival are learning to adapt to their needs,” says Newton.

The Fringe programme will remain online until the end of August, giving audiences another month to “experience and enjoy the incredible work presented this year, and the platform will remain online and accepting work throughout” the year.

“We will also be exploring new ways to present work to our online audiences through the NAF and our other major festivals such Scifest Africa.

“The festival has embraced a digital model and we will continue to innovate and create in this space.”

The Fringe programme will remain online until the end of August, giving audiences another month to “experience and enjoy the incredible work presented this year, and the platform will remain online and accepting work throughout the year”.

“We will also be exploring new ways to present work to our online audiences through the NAF and our other major festivals such Scifest Africa.

’The festival has embraced a digital model and we will continue to innovate and create in this space.”

The 2021 National Arts Festival closed on a high note with Standard Bank Ovation Awards.

The event celebrated new and exciting shows that debuted at this year’s Fringe Live.

The Fringe is an independent platform on the festival to which anyone can bring a show and sees a mix of seasoned performers, emerging artists and experimental events that together form the seed of South Africa’s future arts.

The full list of Standard Bank Ovation Award winners for 2021 can be viewed here.

For more information on the Fringe programme, click here.

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