50th National Arts Festival set to showcase close to 300 works over 10 days

Iconic South African musician, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse. Picture: Instagram.

Iconic South African musician, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse. Picture: Instagram.

Published Jun 20, 2024


ESTABLISHED, new and emerging artists and a network of producers, writers, creators and fans are headed to Makhanda for the 50th National Arts Festival (NAF).

Taking place from June 20 to 30, the festival features about 300 works over the 10 days, ranging from live theatre productions to talks, workshops, visual art exhibitions, master classes and music concerts, among other things.

To mark the milestone celebration, this year will see legendary muso, Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, who is now 72, return to play live, while iconic actor Sello Maake KaNcube will reprise his role in “The Suit”, 30 years after he was in the same play on the stages of NAF.

Monica Newton, CEO of the festival, said, “It’s an honour to be staging this festival 50 years after its first curtain was raised.

“Despite an always changeable, and often precarious, environment for the arts, the National Arts Festival has prevailed and evolved.”

Newton added that this was testament to those who had steered the ship and reflected the extraordinary tenacity artists had brought to this festival and country.

“2024 is a significant year for our country in so many ways, and the National Arts Festival is pleased to be part of the celebrations of our 30 years of democracy, and to be contemplating what the next decade holds for us and the community we serve.”

South Africa’s most diverse and longest-running arts festival will also be launching Third Space, a multi-national dance development programme collaborating with the French Institute of South Africa and the French Ministry for Europe, and Foreign Affairs.

Aside from this, a curated programme, examining distinct topics and universal themes that have persisted since its inception will take centre stage.

The festival will showcase the works of the 2023 Standard Bank Young Artists that include Zoë Modiga (music), Darren English (jazz), MoMo Matsunyane (theatre), Stephané Conradie (visual art), Angel-Ho (performance art) and Lorin Sookool (dance).

2023 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, Lorin Sookool. Picture: Supplied.

Award-winning playwright and poet Napo Masheane will present “Thaba Bosui: The Musical”, while playwright, director and designer Brett Bailey will premiere “The Stranger”, with music composed by Nkosenathi Koela.

This year’s jazz programme features the South African National Jazz Orchestra conducted by Mcoy Mrubatha, the Eastern Cape- born Asanda Mqiki and the National Youth Jazz Festival, which sees a line-up of experienced musicians such as Kesivan Naidoo, Sisonke Xonti and Siya Charles performing on the jazz stages and mentoring a new generation of jazz artists.

Festival-goers and visitors are in for a visual arts treat with a series of art talks.

Reflections on past, present and future includes “Mattering: 50 Years of the National Arts Festival”, which delves into the National Arts Festival’s archive, and the Constitutional Court brings their permanent exhibition to the festival as a reflection on 30 years of democracy with “Aluta Continua”.

Lastly, the Fringe programme is set to see anyone from students to established performers showcase their work.

From comedy and politics to magic and illusions, this is the place to see it all.

Some exciting stage acts include, “It Went Above Your Head”, a production that deals with family dynamics, “2Lovers”, a tragi-comedy about love, and “Return Of The Ancestors”, which sees two Struggle icons, Steve Biko and Neil Aggett, who died in apartheid detention, sent back to South Africa during 2014 to see whether the sacrifice of those who have gone before has been worth it.

A scene from “Return Of The Ancestors”. Picture: Supplied.

∎ For more information and the full NAF programme visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za