Browse shows

African storytelling resonates at the National Arts Festival in its 50th year

Published on 29 April 2024

As the National Arts Festival celebrates its 50th year in 2024, there are so many memories to share. However, setting the stage for the next 50 years is equally important. 

Commenting on this balancing act, Artistic Director Rucera Seethal says, “To encompass all that the Festival could and has ever been in a landmark year such as this is an overwhelming task and belies the Festival’s role in breaking out new work and reimagining older ones. So in creating this programme, we have played with the juxtaposition of old and new and the emergence of ambitious ideas that bring the Festival into a new era of cross-border and international collaboration.”

This new era of cross-border and international collaboration is particularly evident in the theme African Storytelling Resonance – one of six evident in the Curated Programme for 2024. Emphasising a step towards enhanced African exchange and collaboration, and the role of the Festival as an international window on African creativity, the works that fall under this theme also feature a strong emergence of African narrative or are informed by indigenous knowledge systems. Expect works that offer new perspectives and forms. 

Diartskonageng brings its fresh take on theatricality and celebrates African aesthetics. The Red on the Rainbow; an ensemble piece with five actors supported by a trumpeter and percussionist duo, Sydney Mavundla and Volley Nchabeleng, was written and directed by 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, Monageng “Vice” Motshabi, and choreographed by the late Mandla Mngevu, as an experiment with ways of using multiple points of view storytelling, movement and soundscape.

Sketch Productions’ theatre piece 1 yard, 7 shacks is a kwai-hip-hop theatre performance piece. Written and directed by Paul Noko Maja, with music composition by Anele “Naythebae” Zondo, the piece looks at the linguistic and cultural influence of isicamtho.

Circus Zambia is at the Festival with Afronauts, the captivating story of the visionary individuals who aspired to create a utopian Zambia characterised by freedom, dreams of great achievement, nationhood and humanity in the 1960s. This circus piece is written and directed by Gift Chansa and Adam McGuigan.


Left: The Red on the Rainbow – Diartskonageng | Centre: 1 Yard, 7 Shacks – Sketch Productions | Right: Afronauts – Circus Zambia and Wake the beast in Collaboration with Barefeet


Playwright and director Napo Masheane wanders into myth and history with the story of Morena Moshoeshoe in Thaba Bosiu – The Musical from The Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS). Thaba-Bosiu showcases the magnificence of the Basotho clan and what it means to be a Mosotho. The production teaches about the Basotho culture and customs through music, dance, indigenous games, and totems of the Basotho nation through a form of a musical. The piece is choreographed by Sello Pesa

Pesa brings his own work to the Festival too. Titled Nokeng ya Kubetu, this piece was ruminating in Pesa’s head for several years after the passing of his father who had never seen him perform. The play asks questions of identity, heritage and tradition and how they can be resolved and understood in changing times.

There are over 200 productions to choose from at this year’s Festival, which takes place from 20 to 30 June 2024 in Makhanda. Tickets go on sale on 29 April. For more from the National Arts Festival’s Curated Programme, click here.

There’s always something innovative and unexpected on the Fringe, experimental works on the Arena Programme, or a magical experience awaiting on our Family Programme.