After two years of hybrid and online events, the most-anticipated National Arts Festival is back, boasting an array of full live performances from local and international artists set to showcase their craft.
Scheduled to run from June 23 until July 3, this ultimate cultural celebration of all things arts will see artists and audiences from across the globe reunite in the small town of Makhanda, in the Eastern Cape, for 11 days of pure bliss.
From music to dance, theatre, jazz, exhibitions and interactive art experiences, theatre goers will be spoilt for choice at this year’s event.
IOL Entertainment has selected the top 10 shows to watch out for at the 48th National Arts Festival.
New works by 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists
I had the honour of interviewing the 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists (SBYA); Buhlebezwe Siwani (Visual Art), Thando Doni (Theatre), Cara Stacey (Music), Vuma Levin (Jazz), Gavin Krastin (Performance Art) and Kristi-Leigh Gresse (Dance), following their big win last year.
With the magnitude of the SBYA, it’s all eyes on the winners, as each of the young creatives showcase anticipated new works respectively, for the first time in Makhanda.
Bloke & His American Bantu
Written by the prolific author and literary critic Siphiwo Mahala, Bloke & His American Bantu follows the tale of two prominent intellectuals, Bloke Modisane and Langston Hughes, played by Anele Nene and Josias Dos Moleele respectively.
Directed by Sello Maake KaNcube the play shines the spotlight on the role of artists and intellectuals in forging international solidarity during apartheid.
The Drowning Eye
The Drowning Eye is a play by Frantz Fanon, written in 1949. A part love poem, part surrealist narrative, and part philosophical treatise, the play reads like a testimony to the power and possibilities of love as an act of resistance.
This contemporary reimagining of the text explores the edge between love, shadow and violence.
Hamlet (Live Streamed)
A powerful new interpretation of Hamlet is brought to life through puppetry and physical performance. Younge’s Hamlet premieres at the National Arts Festival and features Mongi Mtombeni and Siyamthanda Sinani as Hamlet, with Andrew Buckland as Claudius and Roshina Ratnam as Queen Gertrude.
Commanded by the ghost of his father to avenge his death, Hamlet must grapple with the value of life and what it means to ‘set things right''.
Caught between love and anger, immediate revenge and ultimate retribution, Hamlet fights to right his world shattered by murder.
Hullo, Buy-Bye, Koko, Come In from Koleka Putuma
Hullo, Buy-Bye, Koko, Come In from Koleka Putuma is a multimedia stage adaptation of Koleka Putuma’s sophomore collection of poems by the same name. In it, Putuma fiddles with archives, names, lives and legacies of invisibility, memory, and black women in performance.
The performance weaves together poetry, sound, and projection mapping. The performer experiments with various modes of documentation and performance.
Seven Ways to Say Goodbye
Seven Ways to Say Goodbye came out of trying to transform isolation into a community after a heavy Covid lockdown. It was birthed after the looting in KZN and the unease in the grand narratives of our politics in South Africa.
It is an embodied journal that echoes the early pillow books of Japan’s Sei Shonagon as it lists seven ways to say goodbye. It is full of both sorrow and joy and is, finally, about the transformative power of the small everyday connections we have to the bodies that hold (and hinder) us.
Pop is a multidisciplinary dance piece interrogating mental health issues related to homophobia.
By sharing their intimate experiences on stage, the choreographers Thamsanqa Majela and Matthieu Nieto developed a choreographic and poetic language to transcend violence through a therapeutic dance, both sensitive and flamboyant.
Moya (Live Streamed)
Moya explores and celebrates heritage and culture in an acrobatic display that paints a picture before your eyes. Existing within the familiar comfort of a fruit market, where the merchant juggles his apples, through to the dark, windy streets of Cape Town where pedestrians bustle and tumble, and perhaps even a young woman flies away on the sheets of her washing line, the artists reveal themselves to the audience, telling their stories of escape, encounter, brotherhood and ubuntu.
022 Fleur du Cap Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Sandra Prinsloo returns to Makhanda with her latest hit production Kamphoer.
The Afrikaans drama is based on the best-selling and debut novel Kamphoer by Francois Smit and the non-fiction publication The Boer Whore by Nico Moolman, and has been adapted for the stage by Cecilia du Toit, in collaboration with Sandra Prinsloo and Lara Foot.
This powerful solo-production is significant at a time when gender-based violence has reached critical levels across the country.
KAK! is a hard-hitting satirical play, drawing from Maishe Maponya’ s last work which is an anthology of poems – Truth be told: Da’s Kak in die Land .
Set in a fictitious world called Shashalaziville (meaning the open space), this play is a contemporary interpretation and celebration of the work of iconic playwright, poet and human rights activist, Maishe Maponya, who passed away in September 2021. The show tackles uncomfortable topics such as corruption, poor service delivery, gender inequality and racism.
The National Arts Festival is set to take place in its hometown of Makhanda, June 23 until July 3.
For more information on the live and online shows, click here.