By the NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL team 2022
After two long years, the National Arts Festival will return to Makhanda for a live celebration of the arts from 23 June-3 July.
We’re not just picking up where we left off. Much has evolved in the arts, and for all of us, in the last two years. Mindful of this, we bring you a carefully curated programme and an intimate, inspiring experience – to make sense of the world or escape it completely.
The Village Green will be a festive meeting place in between shows. Grab lunch at a food truck, browse the craft vendors and warm up in the sunshine in the relaxed outdoor seating area. Despite the lockdown years, Makhanda’s restaurant scene is still robust and growing – and The Long Table will be back! Makhanda looks forward to welcoming you.
Take a peek at the programme
A reflection on our times, imaginings of a better – or just different – way, flights of fantasy, stories from the past and the complexity of being here now. These are the first shows to appear on the evolving #NAF2022 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.
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 resulting 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 about what we are left with, what to do with the untreated wounds of our history.
2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art Gavin Krastin is a resident of Makhanda, known for creating collaborative opportunities for artists. He will stage 12 Labours, a reimagining of the Twelve Labours of Hercules. 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.
With a title inspired by a phrase from the 1992 Brenda Fassie song iStraight Le Ndaba, Koleka 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.
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-person play that reimagines the camaraderie between prominent intellectuals, Bloke Modisane and Langston Hughes, writers and activists from Sophiatown and Harlem (New York), respectively.
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 songwriters 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. They will have you on your feet, dancing and singing along, re-visiting these great moments from our musical history as we move through the years.
The 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.
Families can expect experiences suitable for children, including Cirque du Soleil alumni Daniel Buckland’s Urban Circus – a love letter to the thrilling acrobatics of big city life. A talented troupe of Johannesburg’s hottest circus artists will take the audience on a wheel-spinning, nail-biting, day-dreaming escapade through the city. Urban Circus shows the City’s inhabitants as they try to strive, survive and thrive in a delicate and dextrous dance through the intoxicating frenzy of urban life.
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 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.
The Festival will also present a programme of comedy and music and a professional programme for artists to absorb and reconnect around. International producers have been invited to the Festival and will be scouting for work.