Ten Reasons Why You Need to Get to the National Arts Festival This Year

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Wednesday, 26th April 2023

From 22 June to 02 July 2023, Makhanda will become the cultural hub of South Africa when the National Arts Festival draws comedians, actors, artists, dancers and musicians from around the country and overseas. Whether you're looking for comedy, theatre, dance, jazz or ballet, you'll find it all at this years festival. 

Here's ten reasons why you need to get to Makhanda:

1. Over 700 Productions to See

The Festival is a riot of creative expression. There is no way you can see it all, so pick a few Main Programme ‘sure things’ to book before you go, then talk to people and follow the Festival’s social feeds for some hot tips on all the must-sees and sleeper hits. Look out for great 2-for-1 and half price specials too. 

2. Best of SA Meets the World

The National Arts Festival is a homecoming for many South African artists working abroad. This year Swiss artist Simon Senn with Uruguayan developer Tammara Leites, dSimon introduces us to an Artificial Intelligence (AI) with the personality of the artist (Simon Senn). The AI is created by integrating Simon’s personal data. The work demonstrates how the virtual and real world are not always in opposition, revealing the unexpected entanglements between technology, representation, gender, and law.

3. Kid-friendly Culture

The National Arts Festival falls over the winter school holidays so it’s a great opportunity to get the whole family to a culture-fix. 

4. Lots to Buy and Treasure

The National Arts Festival also means warming up our winter bodies in the sunshine between shows at the Village Green. The Village Green will be back in action at the festival with food trucks, craft vendors and a festive outdoor seating area.

5. 49 years of Freedom

2023 marks the 49th year of the Festival in a long tradition of freedom of expression and creative innovation. The National Arts Festival has been integral to the careers of hundreds of artists through the years and it continues to connect artists with audiences, agents and the world.

6. Young Talent

The work of the Standard Bank Young Artists is always eagerly anticipated at the National Arts Festival. These award-winning creatives present brand-new work to Festival audiences and become part of a notable legacy of South African artists who have held the title.  This year’s artists are Lady Skollie - visual art, Koleka Putuma- Poetry, Linda Sikhakhane- Jazz, Msaki - Music, Thami Majela - Dance and Mahlatsi Makgonyana & Billy Langa - Theatre duo.

7. Firm Favourites

Experienced festivalgoers will know that there are some performances that sell out year after year. Check out the online programme and diarise all your favourites. Also, make sure you don't miss out on the classic Sundowner Concerts at the Monument. 

8. Cosy Dinners

Makhanda is known for its cold nights but there are plenty of spots to warm up with a wholesome dinner. The Long Table Restaurant is an annual pop-up restaurant that is frequented by artists and festivalgoers late into the night. Other favourites include Major Frasers where you can look forward to their popular gourmet burgers best paired with locally made craft beer, produced by Featherstone Brewery; Gino's Restuarant has fabulous pizza on offer while The Fork and Dagger takes you away on a fine dining experience with a diverse menu featuring vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options. There are many other options and it’s a good idea to try them all. Check them out here.

9. Soak in the Creative Spirit and Hospitality of Local Artists

During the Festival, make your way over to The Black Power Station and see some great local artists from all walks of life while enjoying local cuisine. 

10. Eastern Cape Adventures

The beautiful Eastern Cape surrounds Makhanda and offers sea, rivers, interesting small towns and the numerous game reserves. Stay on beyond the Festival to enjoy some time in the area.

For more information visit the nationalartsfestival.co.za

For more articles about the National Arts Festival, click here.

Article and photos courtesy of the National Arts Festival.

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