The 48th National Arts Festival Prepares For A Fresh Start

The National Arts Festival resumes its live format with an immersive in-person arts experience in 2022. Staged from 23 June-3 July in Makhanda, the Festival will re-emerge with a carefully focused and curated experience enhanced by an irrepressible burst of Fringe spontaneity and creativity where experimentation, expression, and visibility will contribute to re-igniting the South African arts ecosystem. Artistic Director Rucera Seethal points out “There is a broad offering. Yes, we’ve tightly curated the programme, but also catered for everyone, and included some surprises and provocations too.”

Dance, theatre, visual arts, music, film, illusion, and edgy, new cross-genre and interactive arts experiences will form part of the programme. The Festival will also host a residency programme that brings artists to Makhanda for a period of time prior to the event to work on collaborative projects and engage with Makhanda’s local scene. A robust and engaging Schools Festival will reignite the Festival’s long-time role as a winter holiday destination for young people and the ever-popular free Sundowner Concert will be staged daily at the Monument. 

The Village Green will be back in action with food trucks, craft vendors, and a festive outdoor seating area for warming up winter bodies in the sunshine between shows. Despite the lockdown years, Makhanda’s restaurant scene is still robust and growing – and The Long Table will be back, as the town welcomes the return of their valued annual visitors.

Scenes at the Village Green – image by Jan Potgieter 

A Peek into the 2022 Programme 

The much-anticipated works of the 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists, Buhlebezwe Siwani (Visual Art), Thando Doni (Theatre), Cara Stacey (Music), Vuma Levin (Jazz), Gavin Krastin (Performance Art) and Kristi-Leigh Gresse (Dance) will bring fresh perspectives from some of the country’s most innovative creatives. 

The 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists 

2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, Thando Doni’s new work, Ngqawuse, questions the decisions of our past and how those decisions affect us today. The play is influenced by the story of Xhosa prophet, Nongqawuse, whose visions spurred the cattle killings of 1856/7 and resultant famine.  Borrowing aesthetics from African ritual, music, song and dance, Ngqawuse’s story is one of love and sacrifice, doom and misery and asks questions of what we are left with, what to do with the untreated wounds of our history.

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2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre – Thando Doni

Gavin Krastin (2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art), a resident of Makhanda, is known for creating collaborative opportunities for artists. He will stage 12 Labours, a reimagining of the Twelve Labours of Hercules, in which the conventional masculinities and heroism of old are localised and adapted into twelve acts focused on repairing and maintaining the infrastructure in Makhanda – acts of service as performance art. 

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Gavin Krastin’s 12 Labours – image by Evaan Jason Ferreira 

With a title inspired by a phrase from the 1992 Brenda Fassie song iStraight Le NdabaKoleka Putuma’s poetry collection Hullo, Bu-bye, Koko, Come In has been adapted into a stage play of the same title in a multimedia exploration of poetry, sound, and projection mapping. The piece considers archives, names, lives and legacies of in/visibility, memory, and black women in performance. Created and performed by Koleka Putuma, the work will also feature visual design by Inka Kendzia and composition and sound design by Mr Sakitumi. 

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Hullo, Buy-Bye, Koko, Come In from Koleka Putuma. Image by Sara CF de Gouveia

Sello Maake kaNcube makes a welcome return to the Festival, directing Bloke & His American Bantu. Written by the well known author and academic, Siphiwo Mahala, it’s a two-man play that reimagines the camaraderie between prominent intellectuals, Bloke Modisane and Langston Hughes, writers and activists from Sophiatown and Harlem (New York) respectively. Performed by the talented duo, Anele Nene (Bloke) and Josias Dos Moleele (Langston), the play shines the spotlight on the role of artists and intellectuals in forging international solidarity during one of the darkest hours in the history of South Africa. 

The Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra will present Homeland, bringing together the talents of Tim Moloi, Gloria Bosman and Monde Msutwana to pay tribute to some of the greatest songs and song-writers from South Africa. Famous songs by Vusi Mahlasela, Alan Silinga, Johnny Clegg, Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie and Mafikizolo, are given a new life by the Orchestra and soloists, who will have you on your feet, dancing and singing along, as we move through the years re-visiting these great moments from our musical history.

Dance piece Mnquma, performed by Xolisile Bongwana, with additional choreography from David April, traces the quest of a man reconnecting to his roots and reclaiming the legacy of his ancestors. Mnquma is strongly associated with original music compositions by Bongwana, Elvis Sibeko and No-Finish, a traditional Xhosa musician who achieved much recognition throughout her lifetime and is regarded as the master of ‘uhadi’ music.

Wezile Harmans’ performance, ‘We Regret to Inform You’, explores the notion of a ‘daily hustle’ against the backdrop of South Africa’s increasing unemployment rate. Seen through the stages of our personal vulnerability as individuals living without work, looking for work, getting work, fighting to keep work and losing the position that was supposed to give us stability in the face of disorienting bureaucracies.

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Wezile Harmans’ We Regret to Inform You 

More details of these, and other events and shows at the 2022 National Arts Festival will be released soon, with the full programme being revealed on 3 May 2022. 

The full programme and ticket sales will be available online at from 3 May 2022. 

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