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Farewell 2021…and a souvenir to remember it by

Published on 15 December 2021

2021 is finally drawing to a close and we hope that you are looking forward to some rest and recuperation. Yet again, this year was nothing like we’d planned, but it all worked rather well regardless!

It was another rollercoaster ride, in which we almost staged our first hybrid National Arts Festival Experience but with ten days to go the authorities initiated a Stage 3 lockdown and all gatherings were banned, leaving us less than two weeks to pull our Festival fully online. With many artist already in Makhanda, we staged a somewhat unusual event with a mix of pre-recorded and livestreamed events, where comedians performed to empty rooms (and each other) and our American act The Life and Times of Hedy Lamarr was screened from Iceland.

The world once again saw the incredible energy, adaptability and aptitude of artists, technicians and creatives as they repurposed and retrofitted a Festival that was laced with disappointment as our return to work for live audiences was curtailed, but also triumph, as we produced the 47th edition despite the challenges. We were awed by the strength and fortitude of everyone we worked with this year, and touched by the solidarity and warmth of audiences near and far. Thank you.

A special thank you must also go to our partners; without the Eastern Cape Provincial Government, National Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, National Lottery Commission, Sarah Baartman District Municipality, Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Authority and Business and Arts South Africa, none of this would have been possible!

It has been a year of unprecedented legal battles, social upheaval, disruption and change, but we have adapted and managed to complete almost all of our planned programmes. A new project to engage schools in arts appreciation and the creation of work was piloted; the Future Arts project and its successes will open a wealth of new opportunities in 2022 and beyond. As the National Arts Festival company, we also staged our 25th Scifest Africa festival online and produced the compelling Makhanda Project – a collection of online shows that were born of our hometown – and that shared some of its deepest yearnings, stories, hopes and dreams. Makhanda is our home and we are inviting you to join us here for our Festival in 2022 from 23 June-3 July.

As we say goodbye for 2021, we would like to share a souvenir of the 2021 National Art Festival with you. Our team has put together a collection of photo essays and critical reflection as a record – a place that marks our artists and their incredible artistry in memory and a reminder of the year that was. We hope you’ll take a moment to browse through it.