National Arts Festival

Last updated

National Arts Festival
National Arts Festival logo.svg
GenreArts Festival
DatesJune/July annually
Years active45
Founded13 July 1973
Attendance209 677 [1]
Patron(s) Standard Bank, MNET, National Lotteries Commission, City Press, Department of Arts and Culture, Eastern Cape Government
Website National Arts Festival

The National Arts Festival (NAF) is an annual festival of performing arts in Grahamstown, South Africa. It is the largest arts festival on the African continent [2] and one of the largest performing arts festivals in the world by visitor numbers. [3]


The festival runs for 11 days, from the last week of June to the first week of July every year. It takes place in the small university city of Grahamstown, [4] in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

The NAF comprises a Main programme and a Fringe festival, both administered by the National Arts Festival Office, a non-profit Section 21 Company. The Festival programme includes performing arts (theatre, dance, stand-up comedy and live music), visual art exhibitions, films, talks and workshops, a large food and craft fair and historical tours of the city. The NAF runs a children's arts festival over the same period and a number of other festivals take place in Makhanda over the period of the NAF, such as the National Youth Jazz Festival.

Performances take place across the city in approximately 60 venues (such as theatres, churches, schools) as well as in various outdoor locations for the street performances.

The Festival attracts significant numbers of local and international visitors and is one of the biggest contributors to the economy of the region. [5]

The main programme

A committee of curators in the various disciplines selects the content of the main programme. The planning process takes into account what is available locally and from outside South Africa. Three considerations that influence decisions are the artistic merits of any submission, the creation of a varied and balanced programme, and the costs involved.[ citation needed ]

The fringe

Today, the Fringe is on an equal footing with the Main Festival. Seasoned performers and famous directors can just as easily be found on either programme, and a slot on the main programme one year does not preclude a return to the Fringe the next. The distinguishing feature of the Fringe is that it is open to all and exempt from the selection process that applies to the main programme. Fringe participants are responsible for their own costs and 85% of their box office sales accrue to them directly. They are liable for certain payments for venue hire and registration fees.[ citation needed ]

Subsidiary festivals

A number of subsidiary festivals take place as part of the National Arts Festival:

Young Artist Awards

The Young Artist Awards, sponsored by Standard Bank, are presented by the National Arts Festival Artistic Committee to emerging, relatively young South African artists who have demonstrated exceptional ability in their chosen fields but who have not yet achieved national exposure and acclaim.

Festival Committee members, fellow artists and interested members of the public, nominate artists. The NAF Committee, a group of experts in the various arts disciplines, decides on the final recipients.

Designed to encourage the recipients in the pursuit of their careers, a key aspect of the awards is that they guarantee the artists a place on the main programme of the forthcoming National Arts Festival. Apart from a cash prize, each of the winners receive substantial financial backing for their Festival participation whether this involves the mounting of an exhibition or the staging of a production.

A maximum of five awards are made annually in any one of the disciplines of drama, music, jazz, visual art, dance and film. Since the inception of the awards in 1981 more than 150 awards have been presented plus five special awards to artists in recognition of their contribution to the National Arts Festival and the arts of South Africa. A complete list of previous winners is as follows: [9]

YearMusicDramaDanceJazzVisual ArtOther
2020 [10] Nthato Mokgata Jefferson TshabalalaLulu Prudence MlangeniSisonke XontiBlessing Ngobeni
2019 [11] Megan-Geoffrey PrinsAmy JephtaKitty PhetlaMandla MlangeniGabrielle Goliath
2018 [12] Guy Buttery Jemma KahnMusa HlatshwayoThandi NtuliIgshaan AdamsChuma Sopotela (Performance Art)
2017Abel SelaocoeMonageng 'Vice' MotshabiThandazile RadebeBenjamin JephtaBeth ArmstrongDineo Bopape (Performance Art)
2016 [13] Avigail BushakevitzJade BowersThemba MbuliSiya MakuzeniMohau Modisakeng
2015Musa Ngqunqwana Christiaan Olwagen Luyanda Sibiya Nduduzo Makhathini Kemang Wa LehureleAthi Patra Ruga (Performance Art)
2014Njabulo MadlalaGreg HomannNicola ElliottKyle ShepherdHasan & Husain EssopJahmil XT Qubeka (Film)

Donna Kukama (Performance Art)

2013Runette BothaPrince LamlaFana TshabalalaShane CooperMary SibandeAnthea Moys (Performance Art)
2012Kelebogile BoikanyoPrincess MhlongoBailey SnymanAfrika Mkhize Mikhael Subotzky
2011Ben SchoemanNeil CoppenMamela NyamzaBokani DyerNandipha Mntambo
2010Samson DiamondJanni YoungeMlu ZondiMelanie ScholtzMichael MacGarryClaire Angelique (Film)
2009Jacques ImbrailoNtshieng MokgoroThabo Rapoo Kesivan Naidoo Nicholas Hlobo
2008 Zanne Stapelberg Jaco BouwerDada MasiloMark Fransman Nontsikelelo Veleko
2007Bronwen ForbayActy TangShannon Mowday Pieter Hugo Akin Omotoso (Film)
2006 Sylvaine Strike Hlengiwe LushabaConcord NkabindeChurchill Madikida
2005Andile YenanaMpumelelo Paul GrootboomPeter John Sabbagha Wim Botha Ramolao Makhene (Standard Bank Special Award for the invaluable contribution to and significant achievement in Theatre – posthumous award)
2004 Tutu Puoane Mncedisi Baldwin ShabanguPortia Lebogang MashigoKathryn SmithMoses Taiwa Molelekwa (Standard Bank Special Award for the invaluable contribution to and significant achievement in Music – posthumous award)
2003Angela GilbertYael FarberMoya Michael Berni Searle Dumisani Phakhati (Film)
2002Prince Kupi Sello Maake Ka-Ncube Gregory Vuyani Maqoma Brett Murray
2001Fikile MvinjelwaBrett BaileyTracey HumanWalter Oltmann
2000Gloria BosmanZenzi MbuliAlan Alborough
1998 Bongani Ndodana-Breen Aubrey SekhabiDavid Mudanalo Matamela and Debbie RakusinNhlanhla Xaba
1997Sibongile Mngoma (Opera)Geoffrey HylandLien BothaAlfred Hinkel (Standard Bank Special Award for invaluable contribution to and significant achievement in Dance)
1996Victor MasondoLara Foot NewtonVincent MantsoeTrevor Makhoba
1995Abel MotsoadiJohn LedwabaBoyzie Cekwana Jane Alexander
1994Michael Williams (Opera)Jerry MofokengSam Nhlengethwa
1993 Sibongile Khumalo Christopher KindoPippa Skotnes
1992Raphael VilakaziDeon OppermanTommy MotswaiKevin Harris (Film)
1991Peter NgwenyaAndries BothaDarrell Roodt (Film)
1990 Robyn Orlin Fée Halsted-Berning and Bonnie Ntshalintshali
1989 Johnny Clegg Marthinus BassonGary Gordon Helen Sebidi Pieter-Dirk Uys (Drama) (1820 Foundation Special Award)
1988 Mbongeni Ngema Margaret Vorster
1987Hans Roosenschoon William Kentridge
1986Andrew BucklandGavin Younge
1985Sidwill HartmanMaishe MaponyaMarion Arnold
1984Ken LeachPeter SchützLamar Crowson (Music) (Standard Bank / 1820 Foundation 10th Anniversary Special Award)
1983David Kosviner Paul Slabolepszy Malcolm Payne
1982Janice HoneymanLindy Raizenberg (Ballet)Neil Rodger
1981John Theodore Richard E Grant Jules van de Vijver

Fringe awards

In 2010, the National Arts Festival launched a new set of awards for Fringe productions – the Standard Bank Ovation Awards. These awards recognise excellence on the Fringe, and aim to seek out those productions that are innovative, original and creatively outstanding. At the end of the Festival, Gold and Silver awards are selected from the list of winners, rewarding the best productions in the categories theatre, dance, comedy, music.

Recipients of the Standard Bank Ovation Awards benefit from the recognition provided by the acknowledgement, with companies or artists often being offered extended tours, international opportunities to perform, increased opportunities for funding, and an invitation to submit a proposal for the following year's Arena programme. Artists who win Gold and Silver awards receive modest monetary incentives.


In 2014, the Festival launched the Adelaide Tambo Award for Human Rights in the Arts to "honour an artist or company whose work on the Fringe programme embodies Adelaide Tambo's passion for the arts and her deep commitment for human rights." [15]

Since the Featured Artist Programme was launched in 2012, the National Arts Festival has celebrated and showcased established artists who have built up a substantial body of work that has contributed to South Africa’s national discourse on race, class or gender in a significant way.

Recipients of this award are:

Growth and development

The NAF has grown since its inception. In 1974 there were 64 events on the main programme. (Events refer to productions, exhibitions, workshops, lectures, tours and so forth. A drama or dance production is counted as a single event irrespective of how many times it may be performed.) The Fringe started in 1979 with 10 events. As of 2010 the National Arts Festival comprises more than 350 events with over 1,200 performances. [18]

The Village Green craft fair was introduced in 1989 with approximately 90 stalls. Now it attracts close to 1,000 stallholders. The fair offers visitors the chance to buy an array of goods, from pure wool sweaters to handcrafted beadwork, and there are stalls offering a various exotic foods. In addition, there are Craft Villages at Fiddlers Green and on Church Square.

Social responsibility

The National Arts Festival claims to be a socially responsible festival, this however, has been contested. [19]

The Hands On! Masks Off! programme focuses on strengthening the entrepreneurial skills of the arts community by bringing together arts entrepreneurs to share skills and knowledge with a new generation of arts managers. [20]

In 2010 the Remix Laboratory saw a 120 community-based artists from around the country participate in a residency programme during the NAF. The scholars attended workshops, seminars, performances and visits to galleries while being mentored in arts practice and arts appreciation.

The Art Factory teaches local marginalised and vulnerable youth performance skills such as juggling and acrobatics and combines this with a strategic focus on building the life skills and confidence of the youth. The Art Factory functions as a year-round project in Makhanda.

As part of the ArtsReach Programme the National Arts Festival takes the arts to hospitals, clinics, old age homes and rural areas. A number of artists on the Fringe volunteer their performances for the ArtsReach programme during the NAF. [21]

The Arts Encounter Project distributes a number of tickets to indigent individuals to enable them to enjoy productions from the NAF's main and fringe programmes.


The National Arts Festival publishes a printed booking kit or programme every year, which includes artistic and schedule information about the shows as well as tips on how to book tickets, getting to Makhanda and where to stay. A full PDF of the programme is available online via the NAF's website at


A computerised booking system was introduced in 1989. In 1997, for the first time in the history of South African theatre, the National Arts Festival introduced internet bookings. The NAF website, which was launched in 1994, acts as an online registration vehicle for artists in the build-up to the Festival, and as a ticket booking hub for the Festival. A free-to-download mobile app has also been developed, which allows visitors to browse shows and book tickets.


The National Arts Festival has a small permanent staff comprising around 10 full-time staff members. Nobesuthu Rayi is the Executive Producer [22] and Rucera Seethal the Artistic Director. [23]

Former radio presenter and sponsorship manager Tony Lankester served as CEO for over a decade, stepping down in 2019 to take up a position in the UK. [24] During Lankester's tenure, respected arts administrator Ismail Mahomed served as Artistic Director until 2016. Mahomed was responsible for overseeing the curation of the NAF's artistic content. He was replaced by playwright and arts administrator Ashraf Johaardien, [25] who left at the end of 2018.

During the Festival, the staff complement grows to around 400, including technical staff, largely drawn from the local community of MMakhanda.

International partnerships

The National Arts Festival is a member of the World Fringe Alliance, [26] a grouping of 10 Fringe Festivals from different countries. It is also a member of the African Festival Network (AFRIFESTNET). CEO Tony Lankester is chairman and Treasurer of the two organisations respectively. [26] [27] The NAF embarks on numerous partnerships with foreign embassies and presenting institutions, staging several high-profile international works each year.

See also

Notes and references

  1. "National Arts Festival reports positive results for 2018 Festival". 2 August 2018. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
  2. "Grahamstown Festival – MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 24 August 2005. Retrieved 26 September 2009.
  3. "World Fringe Alliance" . Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  4. Ben Fogel (13 July 2012). "A Festival of Resistance". Mahala. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  5. Antrobus, Geoff. "National Arts Festival Drives the Economy of Grahamstown". Media Update. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  6. "Think!Fest". Think!Fest. Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  7. "Spiritfest – Cathedral of St Michael and St George". Retrieved 26 October 2018.
  8. "Rhodes University-Where Leaders Learn". 20 July 2011.
  9. "Young Artist Award History". Archived from the original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. "The 5 artists changing the face of the creative industry".
  11. "Meet the 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners".
  12. "Everything you need to know about Standard Bank Young Artist Awards 2018 winners". 2 November 2017.
  13. "The 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist Awards winners have been announced". 29 October 2015. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  14. BWW News Desk (11 July 2017). "2017 National Arts Festival Honours Winners of Standard Bank Ovation Awards" (Press release). Retrieved 15 November 2017 via BroadwayWorld.
  15. "National Arts Festival announces new award for advocacy through arts". National Arts Festival. 24 June 2014. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  16. "National Arts Festival names Madosini as featured artist".
  17. "Mamela Nyanza First Choreographer To Be Named NAF Featured Artist",
  18. "National Arts Festival reports attendance of almost 186 000" (Press release). 6 July 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2014 via Grocott's Mail.
  19. A Festival of Resistance, Mahala, Ben Fogel 13 July 2012
  20. "National Arts Festival sets social responsibility trends". Grocott's Mail . 14 June 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  21. VAN ZYL, CINÁ; BOTHA, CHRISTEL (1 January 2004). "MOTIVATIONAL FACTORS OF LOCAL RESIDENTS TO ATTEND THE AARDKLOP NATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL". Event Management. 8 (4): 213–222. doi:10.3727/1525995031436818. ISSN   1525-9951.
  22. "National Arts Festival CEO steps down". 11 July 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  23. "New Arts Fest director is up for the challenge". DispatchLive. 3 October 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  24. "National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester steps down after 12 years". TimesLive. 12 July 2019. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
  25. "Ashraf Johaardien Named as New National Arts Festival Executive Producer". 14 July 2016. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  26. 1 2 "World Fringe Alliance". Artsmart – arts news from kwazulu-natal. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2014.
  27. "AFRIFESTNET Now Launched". AfricAvenir International. Retrieved 6 September 2014.

Coordinates: 33°19′10″S26°31′10″E / 33.31945°S 26.51933°E / -33.31945; 26.51933

Related Research Articles

Makhanda, South Africa Place in Eastern Cape, South Africa

Makhanda, also known as Grahamstown, is a town of about 140,000 people in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. It is situated about 110 kilometres (70 mi) northeast of Gqeberha and 130 kilometres (80 mi) southwest of East London. Makhanda is the largest town in the Makana Local Municipality, and the seat of the municipal council. It also hosts Rhodes University, the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court, the South African Library for the Blind (SALB), a diocese of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and 6 South African Infantry Battalion. Furthermore, located approximately 3 km south-east of the town lies the world renowned Waterloo Farm, the only estuarine fossil site in the world from 360 million years ago with exceptional soft-tissue preservation.

Ian Fraser (playwright) South African writer and activist

Ian Fraser is a South African playwright, writer, comedian, anti-Apartheid activist, artist, anarchist, and social agitator, now living in the USA. He began as South Africa's first street-level comedian, "ranting-verse" poet, and acerbic anti-government satirist. He has consistently been a pro-democracy, anti-establishment voice, both under Apartheid and under the new dispensation in South Africa.

National Theatre of Scotland Scottish theatre organization

The National Theatre of Scotland, established in 2006, is the national theatre company of Scotland. The company has no theatre building of its own; instead it tours work to theatres, village halls, schools and site-specific locations, both at home and internationally.

Sylvaine Strike is a South African actress, writer and theatre director based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Amazwi South African Museum of Literature, previously the National English Literary Museum (NELM), is a museum that houses archival material relating to South Africa's literary heritage. It is located in Makhanda in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

Guy Butler (poet) South African writer

Frederick Guy Butler was a South African poet, academic and writer.

1820 Settlers National Monument

The 1820 Settlers National Monument, which honours the contribution to South African society made by the British 1820 Settlers, overlooks Makhanda in the Eastern Cape. It commemorates the Anglo-Africans, as well as the English language, as much as the settlers themselves. The building was designed by John Sturrock, Sturrock was inspired by the work of Louis Kahn.

Ashraf Johaardien is a multi-award winning playwright, actor, and producer. He was the recipient of the inaugural PANSA Jury Award (2002), was listed as one of Mail & Guardian's 'Top 200 Young South Africans' (2008) and he received a Legends Award (2012) for his achievements in arts and culture.

<i>Touki Bouki</i> 1973 Senegalese film

Touki Bouki is a 1973 Senegalese drama film, directed by Djibril Diop Mambéty. It was shown at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival and the 8th Moscow International Film Festival.

Mamela Nyamza is a dancer, teacher, choreographer, and activist in South Africa. She is trained in a variety of styles of dance including ballet, modern dance, African dance, the Horton technique, Spanish dance, jazz, movement and mime, flying low technique, release technique, gumboot dance and Butoh. Her style of dance and choreography blends aspects of traditional and contemporary dances. Nyamza has performed nationally and internationally. She has choreographed autobiographical, political, and social pieces both on her own and in collaboration with other artists. She draws inspiration from her daily life and her childhood growing up in Gugulethu, as well as her identity as a homosexual, Black, South African woman. She uses her platform to share some of the traumas faced by South African lesbians, such as corrective rape. Additionally, she has created various community outreach projects that have spread dance to different communities within South Africa, including the University of Stellenbosch's Project Move 1524, a group that uses dance therapy to educate on issues relating to HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and drug abuse.

Christopher Michael Zithulele Mann(1948 – 10 March 2021) was a South African poet.

Moses Tladi

Moses Tladi (1903–1959) was a self-taught artist who was the first black painter to have had a formal exhibition in South Africa and the first black artist to exhibit at the South African National Gallery.

7th Standard Bank Ovation Awards

The 7th Standard Bank Ovation Awards ceremony took place on July 10, 2016, to recognize productions on the National Lottery Fringe at South Africa's National Arts Festival that demonstrate artistic innovation and excellence, which celebrate the exploration of new performance styles, and which have the courage to open new conversations through the arts. The ceremony was held at the 1820 Settlers National Monument.

Gopala Davies South African actor and director

Gopala Davies is a South African actor and director. He is best known for his intermedial theatre production Barbe Bleue: A story about madness, which won a Standard Bank Ovation Award at The National Arts Festival in 2015, and the Best Student Director Award in 2014.

Fingo Festival

The Fingo Festival is a community-led arts festival held at Fingo Village Square in Fingo Village, a township 3 kilometres outside of Grahamstown, Eastern Cape. The festival runs for five to seven days, depending on funding, every June/July during the National Arts Festival. Established in 2011, the festival uses art as a tool to promote social cohesion, dialogue and social transformation within the Fingo Village township and the larger Grahamstown community. Featuring local and international acts, the festival's programme includes children's programmes, visual art, drama, music, workshops and youth dialogues.

Andrew Frederick Buckland is a South African award-winning playwright, performer, film director, mime, and academic.

Mmakgabo Mmapula Mmangankato Helen Sebidi is a South African artist born in Marapyane (Skilpadfontein) near Hamanskraal, Pretoria who lives and works in Johannesburg. Sebidi's work has been represented in private and public collections, including at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington and New York the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, New York, and the World Bank. Her work has been recognised internationally and locally. In 1989 she won the Standard Bank Young Artist award, becoming the first black woman to win the award. In 2004, President Thabo Mbeki awarded her the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver – which is the highest honor given to those considered a "national treasure". In 2011, she was awarded the Arts and Culture Trust (ACT) Lifetime Achievement Award for Visual Art, whilst in 2015 she received the Mbokodo Award. In September 2018, Sebidi was honoured with one of the first solo presentations at the Norval Foundation in Cape Town – a retrospective entitled Batlhaping Ba Re.

<i>Moffie</i> 2019 South African LGBT drama war film

Moffie is a 2019 biographical war romantic drama film co-written and directed by Oliver Hermanus. Based on the autobiographical novel of the same name by André Carl van der Merwe, the film depicts mandatory conscription into the notorious South African Defence Force (SADF) during apartheid through the eyes of a young closeted character Nicholas van der Swart as he attempts to hide his attraction to another gay recruit in a hostile environment. The title derives from a homophobic slur in South Africa used to police masculinity.

Waterloo Farm lagerst├Ątte Site in South Africa with a wide range of fossils from high-latitudinal Gondwana

The Waterloo Farm lagerstätte is a Famennian lagerstätte in South Africa that constitutes the only known record of a near-polar Devonian coastal ecosystem.

Matsemela Manaka was a South-African born playwright, poet, and artist. He began his career in the mid-1970's and was influenced by the ideas of the Black Consciousness Movement. Among his plays, the most distinguished are Egoli: City of Gold and Children of Asazi. He eventually won the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 1987.