National Arts Festival Opens On Thursday

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Monday, 24th June 2019

It’s all systems go for the opening of the 45th National Arts Festival in Makhanda this week, with the curtain going up on a wide array of productions and performances on Thursday (27 June).
The Festival is an important event in South Africa’s arts eco-system and provides a vital platform for artists to express themselves and read the heartbeat of the nation. Says Acting Executive Producer Nobesuthu Rayi, “Artists are like the imbongi’s of our culture. Just as a chief might traditionally hear from the imbongi about the mood of the people, so our artists are now reading the mood of the nation. They are our interpreters and we need to value them and let them be heard.” 
The voices of this year’s artists are loudest on topics such as identity, place and land. These themes run through many productions, and are treated in many different ways to form a picture of a country fighting to claim a positive identity that encompasses the many things we are, and to begin crafting a new narrative for our future.
With over 500 productions on the programme and thousands of shows, talks, workshops, artists walkabouts, street performances and more, audiences are spoiled for choice as they face an eleven day programme packed with endless creativity and inspiration. 
The town has also been hard at work preparing for the Festival with scores of volunteers and special service providers from the private sector working with the local municipality to set the scene, and ensure a safe and comfortable stay for the visitors. 
Says Festival CEO, Tony Lankester, “Our planning for the Festival is year-round and so after many days and nights of preparation we are now ready to receive our visitors. Many have asked about the water situation and we would like to assure everyone that we are confident that we will meet the needs of both residents and visitors during the Festival. It’s time to celebrate and to go on a journey with our artists.” 

The Festival will open with a flag raising ceremony and Khoisan and Pantsula performances from 8:00am on Thursday, 27 June outside the Monument in Makhanda.

Just some of the highlights of the first weekend include Brett Bailey’s epic new play SAMSON, Irish comedian Dylan Moran bringing his DR COSMOS world tour to Makhanda, the exciting and innovative series of plays DEURnis/Uzwelo in which audience members will have one on one experiences of the play, and the first Festival performances of German/Chinese choreographer Hannah Ma’s dance piece SYLPHIDES. 
2019 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Dance, Kitty Phetla, performs with former Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz (2015), Nduduzo Makhatini, in an innovative exploration of ancestry and ritual GOING BACK TO THE TRUTH OF SPACE. The final performance of this show differs slightly with a live performance by Kitty Phetla and a sound recording of Nduduzo Makhathini with a surprise twist.
Also catch 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, Mandla Mlangeni in the TUNE RECREATION COMMITTEE and Magnet Theatre’s highly anticipated G7: OKWE BOKHWE. The Fringe is bursting with great work too. For more on what to see on the 2019 Fringe, visit
Planning a Festival programme 

The diversity of shows, talks, workshops and experiences at the National Arts Festival can be a little overwhelming but there are several ways to explore what’s on offer. 

•  The 2019 National Arts Festival programme can be viewed online at 

•  The printed version can be bought for R75 plus delivery to your door via, or at various outlets across Makhanda.

•  The Festival app is another way to enjoy effortless browsing and booking on-the-go. Available for Android and Apple’s IOS, search for ‘National Arts Festival' to download the latest version.
A guide to planning the trip is updated annually by the Festival.



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