By KEREN BANZA
There are multitudes of shows, performances and exhibitions to pick from in the ocean that is the 2022 National Art Festival. Unfortunately, the tides do not favour all these daring artists who want to showcase their talents. Concerning Blacks, Suburban Blesser, Malifezeke, and Ends with Tears are some of the shows no longer gracing the stage at this year’s festival.
There are many reasons why a show might pull out of the festival, according to NAF Marketing and Communications Manager Sascha Polkey. “Shows are cancelled regularly throughout the festival. Sometimes artists fall ill. Sometimes fringe artists have not been able to raise funds or the ability to get to Makhanda in time,” she explainED. “In some instances, there are just general issues with artists, and it’s quite frequent on the Fringe.”
Most artists who pull out of the festival are from the Fringe, which constitutes the majority of shows at NAF. Acts that fall under the Fringe are made up of independently funded artists. There is no selection process, and any artist who believes in their work and wants to showcase it is welcome to participate.
Artists on the Fringe must fund and find their transportation to Makhanda, covering accommodation and living expenses. They hope to get compensated by ticket sales while sharing their art with audiences, but this is not guaranteed. It is taking a gamble for art’s sake, having faith that it will work out even though South Africa’s arts are underfunded and often under-appreciated.
Unlike the Fringe, the Curated Programme is selected by the festival committee, and they are paid to be part of the festival. They do not need to worry about funding and can instead focus on their art.
Polkey explains: “You won’t see cancelled shows on the Curated Main Programme. The only reason you might have a main show cancelled is due to load shedding, but we are trying to work out a system that will help us inform you about when that will be.”
Covid-19 has struck a heavy blow to the already struggling arts industry. In 2020, the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) released a report on the impact of Covid-19 on the cultural and creative sector of the country. The report showed that 95% of professional artists surveyed had their work either cancelled or indefinitely postponed.
According to an article by Sarah Hoek of The Daily Maverick, this had a ripple effect, disrupting an entire chain of workers in different sectors, such as set suppliers, designers, sound technicians, producers, and make-up artists. In 2020, the cultural and creative sector’s contribution to South Africa’s GDP shrank from R42.2 billion to about R42.1 billion.
We must begin to raise awareness about the importance of the arts and rally behind our artists. Making art a priority can help build steam and generate momentum for more funding opportunities for artists. Take the chance to watch some shows on the Fringe. Hopefully, all the shows that have pulled out will get the opportunity to be showcased at the next festival or on another artistic stage.