National Arts Festival commemorates fifty years

The National Arts Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary. Picture: File

The National Arts Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary. Picture: File

Published May 27, 2024


The National Arts Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary with a curated programme, examining distinct topics and universal themes that have persisted since its inception.

The festival, set to take place from June 20 to 30, in Makhanda, Eastern Cape, is also launching Third Space, a multi-national dance development programme collaborating with the French Institute of South Africa and the French Ministry for Europe, and Foreign Affairs.

Selected after a drawn-out application procedure and thorough panel evaluation, the National Arts Festival's Curated Programme presents a social experiment as well as an insight into the perspectives of the artists on South Africa and the wider globe.

Today, it is South Africa's most diverse and longest-running arts festival, showcasing a wide range of genres and languages that draw an increasingly diverse audience from both domestic and foreign sources.

Speaking about the festival, Artistic Director Rucera Seethal said, “To encompass all that the festival could and has ever been in a landmark year such as this is an overwhelming task and belies the festival’s role in breaking out new work and re-imagining older ones. So in creating this programme, we have played with the juxtaposition of old and new and the emergence of ambitious ideas that bring the festival into a new era of cross-border and international collaboration.”

Some of the highlights from the Curated Programme include the world premiere of Third World Bunfight’s ,The Stranger, the cutting-edge new work 1789 by Sibikwa Arts Centre, a tribute to artists passed by Mandla Mbothwe, and the innovative new works of the Standard Bank Young Artists.

Through several visual art exhibitions, the history of the festival is brought into the conversation, and exciting new projects that connect artists and creators from Africa take the festival in a new direction for the future.

Justice and hope, questions and theories about justice, both environmental and social, feature prominently in this year’s programme.

Empatheatre employs a research-based methodology for creating works that tackle complexity. They also celebrate their tenth anniversary with a retrospective of two works at the festival.

Lalela uLwandle (featuring Alison Cassels, Mpume Mthombeni, and Rory Booth) has travelled internationally and tackles issues of justice for those who live with and from the ocean.

The Last Country (cast includes Mpume Mthombeni, Philisiwe) Twijnstra, Nompilo Maphumulo, and Zintle Bobi), explores the stories of women migrants hailing from the DRC, Zimbabwe, Somalia, and rural KwaZulu-Natal.

Third World Bunfight premieres their new work, The Stranger, a meditative, ritualistic performance work based on the myth of Orpheus, continuing Brett Bailey's exploration of the intersections between ancient myth and contemporary realities. Set in a dystopian contemporary town—humdrum, grinding, materialistic, and bigoted—a gifted musician arrives from across the border or from another world.

His music is transformational and reveals an underlying harmony in the universe. Written, created, directed, and designed by Bailey, it features musical direction by Nkosenathi Koela.

Saturday Star