By DANA OSBORN
The best and brightest talent in SA is on show in Makhanda. With the first in-person arts festival since 2019 about to begin, we checked in with the locals to check their temperatures.
Famous in his hometown, Sisa Mapetu is the energetic owner of the Famous Sisa café. “I’m excited to present my brand to those who don’t know it,” said Mapetu with a grin.
Other local business owners were also keen. Mohammed Moorad, who has been here for 25 years, sets up stalls during the festival. “After Corona, we faced a big challenge. For two years, everything went downhill. But the festival is a booster for us economically, and I think for many people it will bring life back to Grahamstown”.
Efese ‘Fan’ Betela, a local artist who works alongside the Black Power Station, echoed Moorad’s sentiments.
“The first thing that comes to mind when someone says ‘fest’ is exposure and the possibility of making money. Those are the two main things for me on a career level. I was raised in Makhanda; I used to go to the fest with my folks, so, on a personal note, it means culture,” Betela said.
Unemployed People’s Movement spokesperson and local livewire activist Ayanda Kota said despite the difficulties Makhanda has faced in recent years, including water, sanitation and service delivery issues, the opportunities festival brings are welcomed.
“We welcome the excitement and euphoria that comes with it.
“We acknowledge that it will just be short-term opportunities, but we are quite excited. This town is on its knees. We should welcome whatever brings relief,” Kota said.
“I love it,” said sound technician Elijah Madiba. A resident for two decades and band member of The Nia Collective, Madiba said the festival was something to celebrate.
“It’s a small town. Nothing much really happens, so we all look forward to it (festival) happening. The last two years weren’t great without it, so I’m glad it’s back,” he said.
The National Arts Festival seems to bring more than just entertainment to locals. NAF means income, something to celebrate, infrastructural development, and transnational artistic collaboration. From what we can pick up, it has been dearly missed.