By David Mann
“For here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Archaic Torso of Apollo
So, we’ve arrived at the end of another National Arts Festival. What is there to say? How do we begin to untangle and make sense of the myriad encounters and experiences of 11 days of visual art, theatre, live music, literature, talks and public performance?
I’ve covered the National Arts Festival for a decade now. Some things have changed while others remain the same. The town is a little worse for wear, and the shape of the Festival has shifted, grown smaller and more concentrated, but the quality of work on offer at the Festival, and the rare commitment of its artists, is as evident to me now as it was back then. Although in a different format, Cue endures, too.
Over the course of the Festival, Cue has dispatched its writers, photographers, filmmakers and broadcasters into nearly every venue, concert hall, gallery and public space across Makhanda. We’ve seen jazz that broke open the sky, exhibitions that refused neat interpretation, and performances that helped make new sense of the world and our places in it.
We had the rare opportunity of collective conversations with the city, the country, and the broader world through the lens of art. We have provided a record of these conversations, moments, and reflections, but we have also contributed to them and in turn, become edified by them – changed.
Like Rilke, standing before a work of art and walking away as a different version of himself, we have emerged with new ways of seeing. The hope is that our readers – the artists, audience members, first-time visitors to the Festival and die-hard fans – have had a similar experience.
As Cue’s 2023 coverage continues to ripple out and reach readers, viewers and listeners across the country, may it serve as a growing, living archive of the inimitable power of South African art, and of the National Arts Festival’s vital contribution to it all.