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The National Arts Festival has long been a highlight on South Africa’s cultural calendar. It’s a time for artists and visitors to gather, engage and celebrate. Showcasing work across a range of disciplines, this is a festival that encourages range, versatility and innovation.

We have our generous sponsors to thank for keeping the spirit of the National Arts Festival alive, affording us the privilege of creating extraordinary works that continue to reflect the shifts of the artistic landscape not only in South Africa but around the world. It is with great pleasure that we welcome our patrons back to celebrate the South African arts community.

Welcome to Our Home

Makhanda has been the home of the National Arts Festival since 1974 and no two festivals have ever been the same. What hasn’t changed is our belief that the creative arts offer more than entertainment.

As the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent, its importance as a space for artists and audiences to come together, engage and create unique cultural experiences cannot be underestimated. Through the lens that the arts offer, we are better equipped to understand this world, our place in it, find meaning and drive transformation.

The Festival has deep roots in Makhanda, and for decades the Monument has been a place where people from different walks of life gather to celebrate the arts.

Sundowner Concert in the Monument Photo by Jan Potgieter
Little Red Riding Hood photo by Mark Wessels

Today the Festival continues to provide space for work that interrogates the country and world we live in, and expresses the viewpoints of diverse communities locally and across the globe.

The last few years have brought with them challenges that have been felt globally as well as ones that are very South African. The pandemic left no element of human life untouched. Artists and all of those involved in the creative industries felt the devastating effect of a world in lockdown. From digital to hybrid editions, the Festival pivoted like so many others in the creative sector, presenting groundbreaking new works that adapted to new technologies.

Nothing compares to face-to-face gatherings though, and it was with much excitement that we welcomed everyone back to Makhanda in 2022. The lockdown levels lifted just as the Festival opened, allowing us to gather in numbers we hadn’t seen since 2019.

And now we are here in 2023, with its own challenges…We have backup power available throughout the Festival venues, but more importantly, we have a programme celebrating excellence in the arts including drama, dance, physical theatre, comedy, music, jazz, exhibitions and more.

Transformation and keeping apace with the artists who make the Festival unique and distinctive every year is complex, difficult, rewarding and exciting. Crucially though, this allows us to stay relevant, to stay sustainable and to still feel like home to the artists we work with; transformation is not negotiable.

Here’s to not becoming history! And to finding creative ways to be heard, to listen, to heal, to understand and to make meaning. Here’s to a great 2023 NAF!