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How we’ll be doing it differently this year

Published on 3 April 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has put the arts sector and all related events under tremendous strain. As public health concerns became a priority, it became clear that the National Arts Festival could not proceed in its traditional format. However, instead of cancelling the event outright, the Festival’s management made the bold decision to take the event online this year. 

“Going virtual will mean that the Festival can continue to support artists and the arts in 2020, by presenting work within a digital space. This way we can share some magic and hope with those who may still be confined to their homes. An opportunity to connect when we are being asked to distance ourselves from one another,” CEO Monica Newton said in her announcement. 

Artists, technicians and other related industries “depend on festivals like ours to generate an income through selling tickets, getting their work seen and talked about locally and internationally, and networking with their peers. Rather than cancel, we aim to create a new opportunity for artists and audiences alike to celebrate the arts, and to create an accessible platform for artists to share their work”. The Festival is committed to its role as a form of revenue for the arts and downstream industries, especially in Makhanda and the Eastern Cape, as far as it can. 

The when

The Virtual National Arts Festival will be available online on the National Arts Festival’s website for 11 Amazing days, from 25 June to 5 July 2020. The idea will be for audiences to browse the online programme and buy single day or Festival packages, which will allow them to view the new content that will appear each day.

The National Arts Festival is a non-profit organisation with a mandate to grow and support the arts and audiences. As a result, there will be some content offered free for all to enjoy.

The what

The National Arts Festival is the country’s most important platform of the arts – a place where artists present multidisciplinary works on a variety of platforms. Despite its shift to the virtual realm, this remains its aim, with the Festival’s artistic team working with artists and creative communities locally, in Africa and across the world, to devise a rounded programme that will be entertaining, stimulating and challenging. 

Audiences can expect live and pre-recorded content including music performances, poetry and stage readings, theatre, visual art, comedy and interactive experiences – remixed and reimagined to exist online. The team is investigating ideas for live performances to create immersive performances and to translate visual art into digital exhibitions. Traditional musician Madosini, this year’s Featured Artist, will be part of the Festival though a documentary about her life and work. The Critical Thinking platform will be made up of workshops, webinars and podcasts. 

Plans are to transport the Standard Bank Village Green market online and for the ‘Virtual Green’ to showcase the beautiful work of local and other vendors. 

The how

The primary way into this experience will be through the NAF’s website, which will be the portal to amazing digital content – from videos of pre-recorded content and streamed performances, to podcasts, workshops and webinars. We’ll be redeveloping and conceptualising the website as this will be where audiences will be able to engage with content, with each other and with us. 

  • Artists, creatives and entrepreneurs are invited to get in touch with us by filling in the online Ideas Form on our website.
  • Artists wanting to be part of Creativate Digital Arts Festival should also fill in the Ideas Form. The deadline has been extended to 15 May.

Image: DEURnis – Droom at the National Arts Festival 2019 / Nardus Engelbrecht