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Countdown to Main programme deadline

Published on 9 August 2016

Artists interested in taking part in South Africa’s National Arts Festival, which will be held from 29 June to 9 July 2017, have just weeks left to submit their proposals for the Main programme.

The Festival is accepting proposals for work across all genres – theatre, dance, music, public art, installations, performance art and exhibitions. The deadline for submissions is 2 September. Fringe applications will open in October and run until mid-January 2017.

The 2017 National Arts Festival is looking for bold, courageous work that responds to the theme, Art and Disruption.

“We want to examine how the arts challenges mainstream ways of thinking, its responses to disruptions to the status quo, as well as how it disrupts conventional artistic boundaries and conventions to create new artistic territories,” incoming Executive Producer Ashraf Johaardien said.

The call for application extends beyond South Africa, and South African artists are encouraged to work collaboratively with artists and companies from the African continent and beyond.

Proposals that are not bound to the Art and Disruption theme are also welcome, as the intention is to present a programme that positions NAF as a prominent platform for innovation, experimentation, reflection, entertainment and celebration.


For the 2017 National Arts Festival, four elected members of the Artistic Committee will curate the core of the Main programme: renowned violinist Samson Diamond (music); curator Ernestine White (visual arts); dramatist Warona Seane (theatre); and dancer and choreographer Gregory Maqoma (dance).

National Arts Festival Artistic Committee Chair Brett Bailey explains the process: “In consultation with one another, and with the other members of the Artistic Committee, these four curators will work through submissions, select proposals and approach artists who they believe will enrich the Festival programme.”

Johaardien, who will work closely with the Festival’s Artistic Committee throughout the selection process, hopes that artists “will do more than think outside of the box” when responding to the theme, Art and Disruption.

“For me, this theme asks artists to throw away the box completely. Airbnb has revolutionised travel, Uber has reshaped transport, and Netflix has changed the way we digest television.I am hoping we see submissions that do the same for the arts.”

Gain traction

Jade Bowers, the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, who premiered her new work Scorched! at this year’s Festival, encourages artists to enter for 2017. “The National Arts Festival has always been a place where my work could find footing and gain traction. The Main Programme has, for me, been a benchmark for amazing work happening all over the country.”

Neil Coppen, who presented Animal Farm to rave reviews at the 2016 Festival, also feels that the National Arts Festival offers artists good exposure. “The National Arts Festival’s Main Programme offers an incredible opportunity for artists to get their work seen on a national and even international level. We all know how expensive and difficult it is to tour work to Grahamstown and to be granted a platform of this nature and with the additional support, publicity and guidance of the Festival, means that one is really able to prioritise the art over the mountain of admin that such processes  tend to entail. I’d encourage everyone I know to apply.”

Themba Mbuli, the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, agrees. “As a young creator I’ve presented two of my works already at National Arts Festival. Not only has this platform broadened my audience locally but it has kept me in contact with other international platforms through producers who have seen my shows during the Festival. ‎This is a great platform to network and present your craft to the world. I’d recommend young artists not to miss this opportunity.”

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The National Arts Festival is grateful to the National Lotteries Commission, the Department of Arts and Culture, Eastern Cape Provincial Government, M-Net and Standard Bank of South Africa.


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