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Countdown to the 2023 National Arts Festival begins as Programme Announced and Booking Goes Live

Published on 23 May 2023

NOTE TO MEDIA: Media accreditation for the National Arts Festival is now open, please visit https://nationalartsfestival.formstack.com/forms/media to make your application

The National Arts Festival has announced its 2023 programme which is now live on www.nationalartsfestival.co.za and open for online bookings.

Makhanda’s annual celebration of the arts will be taking place from 22 June-2 July 2023 as culture lovers, students and families escape into the theatres, galleries, cosy restaurants and reimagined spaces of the small town during the chilly mid-year break. 

Speaking at an event in Johannesburg hosted by long term partner Standard Bank to announce the programme, Artistic Director Rucera Seethal explained that this year’s programme was designed with audience experiences in mind. This includes staging shows only in venues with a back-up power supply and spreading the programme highlights across the full eleven days so that visitors staying for only two or three days would be able to enjoy a diversity of National Arts Festival shows.

The line-up includes stellar South African dancer/choreographers Gregory Maqoma and Mamela Nyamza and a 50th celebration triple bill from Jazzart, as well as award-winning shows like Hold Still by scriptwriter Nadia Davids and the premiere of Droomwerk by Pieter Odendaal. Visit the first programme reveal for more details on earlier announcements.

Pieter Odendaal's Droomwerk is set to run at NAF 2023
Nadia Davids' new work Hold Still will be at the 2023 National Arts Festival

The Festival is also pleased to confirm that the Boston Youth Orchestra will be coming from the USA to perform both the symphony concert and the Children’s Concert at the Festival. Another international artist to look out for is Sonja Hughes with her piece I am from Reykjavik; part protest, part sculpture, part ceremony, the artist is exploring what it is to be a post-racial, global citizen.

Relationships between mothers and daughters are followed across five generations of Kenyan writer and performer Wanjiku Mwawuganga’s family in the autobiographical theatre piece ROOTS. An artist whose works are heavily influenced by history, Wanjiku sought to find herself and her own take on motherhood through the history of the women who raised her and ultimately considers the effects of colonialism on women and how trauma is passed down from generation to generation.

The life and music of beloved traditional Xhosa music legend Madosini will be commemorated at the Festival in a dedicated listening space that will be activated throughout the eleven days. Aptly located in the Eastern Cape, the Festival will also present Lulama Masimini’s research-based piece Umkhondo, an exploration of the Xhosa ritual of ‘ukubuyisa’ within the theatre as a vessel for healing and reconnection to home. 

Described by The African Theatre Magazine as “witty, punchy, and hard-hitting in a humorous way, yet searing in the way it handles the heavy subject matter of gender based violence,” Market Lab and POPArt’s Text Me When You Arrive follows three women (writers and performers Aaliyah Matintela, Thulisile Nduvane and Sibahle Mangena) as they navigate their  way through the “rules” set by rape culture, patriarchy and social media in daily life on a seemingly  impossible mission to not get raped and killed in South Africa. 

What started out as a rummaging through rubbish bins of Joza in Makhanda has evolved into an exhibition of large scale works made up largely of rubbish & found items; Waya Waya… Imoto Yocingo by award winning artist, Nyaniso Lindi. The title is an IsiXhosa slang that directly translates into a hustle & bustle, or a state of chaos. Waya Waya uses what we discard in our daily lives to touch on issues of identity, migration, consumerism, power and greed.

Choreographer/director, Nelisiwe Xaba, and video artist/director, Mocke J van Veuren integrate digital technology and physical performance in Fake News.  Working with Rhodes University students in residency in Makhanda before the festival, they blur the lines between body and screen, reality and mediated image. 

After taking home a Standard Bank Ovation Award for the charming 2020 online work Ouma Lilly & Haar Klong, Jeremeo Le Cordeur returns to the NAF Arena stage with Dude, Where’s My Bakkie? After discovering his bakkie was stolen, Dean September (Le Cordeur) recollects the many moments attached to the Nissan 1400, gifted on the character’s 21st birthday. Surviving a broken heart and a nasty road rage encounter, the audience enjoys music from the 90s on the way to meeting various characters and experiencing the Cape from a fresh perspective.

After recently appearing on the global TV show Got Talent All-Stars, a show curated from the ‘Got Talent’ TV show acts from around the world, Brendon Peel and Li Lau will be back from their international travels to perform Double Bluff: An Extreme Magic Show. Peel will also present Magic of Sideshow and Impossible on the NAF Fringe. The Fringe is where audiences will also find punk fusion band Undead Generation who hail from nearby Gqeberha.

Madosini
A shot from the Text Me When You Arrive show which will be at NAF 2023

What started out as a rummaging through rubbish bins of Joza in Makhanda has evolved into an exhibition of large scale works made up largely of rubbish & found items; Waya Waya… Imoto Yocingo by award winning artist, Nyaniso Lindi. The title is an IsiXhosa slang that directly translates into a hustle & bustle, or a state of chaos. Waya Waya uses what we discard in our daily lives to touch on issues of identity, migration, consumerism, power and greed.

Choreographer/director, Nelisiwe Xaba, and video artist/director, Mocke J van Veuren integrate digital technology and physical performance in Fake News.  Working with Rhodes University students in residency in Makhanda before the festival, they blur the lines between body and screen, reality and mediated image. 

After taking home a Standard Bank Ovation Award for the charming 2020 online work Ouma Lilly & Haar Klong, Jeremeo Le Cordeur returns to the NAF Arena stage with Dude, Where’s My Bakkie? After discovering his bakkie was stolen, Dean September (Le Cordeur) recollects the many moments attached to the Nissan 1400, gifted on the character’s 21st birthday. Surviving a broken heart and a nasty road rage encounter, the audience enjoys music from the 90s on the way to meeting various characters and experiencing the Cape from a fresh perspective.

After recently appearing on the global TV show Got Talent All-Stars, a show curated from the ‘Got Talent’ TV show acts from around the world, Brendon Peel and Li Lau will be back from their international travels to perform Double Bluff: An Extreme Magic Show. Peel will also present Magic of Sideshow and Impossible on the NAF Fringe. The Fringe is where audiences will also find punk fusion band Undead Generation who hail from nearby Gqeberha.

Staying local with Rivals! Adapt or die, students from the Best Foot Forward project excavate what lies behind the intense rivalry between two adjacent townships, Fingo Village and Tantyi township, in old Grahamstown. The animosity between Mfengu and Xhosa ran so strong it lasted over 150 years and remained well into the twentieth century.

For those who love a little cheeky fun, solo drag-cabaret-burlesque extravaganza Ripe ‘n Ready will delight Fringe audiences. Fresh, funny and flirty, the star of the show, Pichi Keane, comes to Makhanda hot from Hong Kong. 

Seasoned NAF performer and Naledi Award winner Craig Morris will be directing Tessa Jubber and Ter Hollmann as a couple who fall out of love in Fool’s Errand and Francois Botha brings Best of Both Concerts filled with reminiscent, familiar tunes by great composers such as Debussy, Elgar, Brahms and Tchaikovsky that have stood the test of time. 

The Fringe continues to be a space for innovation and is also an important platform for new work. Student drama is firmly back on the programme with University of Venda, Limpopo University, Tshwane University, Wits, AFDA Johannesburg, University of Zululand, Sonwa Sakuba Institute for the Performing Arts, Jika Performing Arts College, TUT (eMalahleni Campus), Oakfields College of Dance, Prestige School of Dance, Sonwa Sakuba Institute for the Performing Arts, University of the Western Cape, Rhodes University, Kingswood College, CPUT Performing Arts Society, Curro Heritage House, Walter Sisulu University and the Phoenix College of Johannesburg all heading for Makhanda this year.

Brenden Peel and Li Lau at the Don't Try This At Home Live Stream show at NAF 2021

Shows on the National Arts Festival Fringe are reviewed by an anonymous panel of reviewers who then meet and collectively award Standard Bank Ovation Awards. A prestigious award, it is also a mark of excellence and one which audiences in Makhanda take note of as they navigate their programme choices. Winning a Standard Bank Ovation Award also helps artists open doors with theatres and festivals locally and internationally. 

The Standard Bank Ovation Awards and the Standard Bank Young Artist Award are two of the platforms that the National Arts Festival’s long-term partner Standard Bank support at the Festival, starting artists on their inspiring journeys and recognising those that rise above with the mid-career Standard Bank Young Artist Award. This year’s Standard Bank Young Artists are Koleka Putuma (Poetry), Lady Skollie will be making her NAF debut as the Visual Arts Standard Bank Young Artist winner, Theatre Duo (Billy Langa and Mahlatsi Mokgonyana) who are the 2022 Standard Bank Young Artists for Theatre, Linda Sikhakhane, the Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, previously gracing Fringe and Curated stages, Thamsanqa Majela (Dance) and Msaki (Music) who has performed at the Festival since 2014.

Speaking at the Johannesburg launch of the programme, Desiree Pooe, Head of Sponsorships at Standard Bank explained the motivation for their 39 year old partnership with the National Arts Festival, “We are delighted at the return to the fully in-person format of the National Arts Festival. This platform is a magnificent showcase and celebration of the artistic excellence drawing talent from South Africa and elsewhere in the continent and the world. We at Standard Bank are proud to still be participating in the National Arts Festival, 39 years later.  We are honoured that our investment in the arts caused a thousand dreams to be realised over nearly four decades. We are proud that exceptional talent continues to be recognised and rewarded.”

NAF Artistic Director, Rucera Seethal also paid tribute to the contribution of multiple industry partners who have collaborated with the Festival to produce shows over the years and at this year’s Festival, “It is clear that, while still fragile, we are a collaborative arts ecosystem. Both the sector and the Festival have risen above multiple challenges over the decades to sustain the creative heartbeat of South Africa. Even as we face fresh trials, we look for new opportunities to form a dialogue with our audiences through the multi-layered perspective of our artists. It is one that not only preserves our sanity and heals our wounds but also has the transformative power to inspire new ideas and action.”

The Standard Bank Young Artists for 2022

The National Arts Festival’s program is live and tickets are on sale online at www.nationalartsfestival.co.za.

 

Standard Bank cardholders qualify for a discount of up to 25% when using a valid Standard Bank debit, cheque or credit card to purchase tickets for the National Arts Festival. The discount is applicable to online purchases or at the Festival Box Office.  This offer is subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply.

 

To find out more about this year’s highlights visit our first programme reveal here  

Follow the Festival’s social media on: 

Twitter – artsfestival 

Facebook – National Arts Festival Makhanda 

Instagram – nationalartsfestival 

NOTES TO EDITORS 

The National Arts Festival takes place in Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown), Eastern Cape every year during winter. The eleven day event is a diverse performing and visual arts festival with a strong curated programme and an independent, uncurated Fringe. Work on the programme is predominantly South African but also features international and African works. Student work, new voices, emerging collaborations and stages for experimentation – a hallmark of the 49 year old Festival – coexist in the small town setting. The Festival is also the stage on which new works by the Standard Bank Young Artists are experienced (going back through a long line of notable South African winners). The Distell National Playwright also presents a production based on his or her winning script. 

The 2023 National Arts Festival is presented in partnership with the Eastern Cape Government, Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and Standard Bank. The Festival also acknowledges the contribution of Distell, the National Arts Council, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, Eastern Cape Development Corporation, Sarah Baartman District Municipality, Makana Municipality and Business and Arts South Africa.

To apply for media accreditation for this year’s National Arts Festival, please visit https://nationalartsfestival.formstack.com/forms/media