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What to Expect: Makhanda Live (Curated Programme)

Published on 24 June 2021

David Bester performs with the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra

Bookings are now open for the 2021 National Arts Festival’s Makhanda Live curated programme which will be staged live in the Festival’s home town of Makhanda from 8-18 July. All tickets can be bought on the Festival’s website

It’s been an exceptionally challenging 18 months for the arts but the National Arts Festival is cutting its cloth to fit the times with a smaller hybrid Festival that allows audiences the opportunity to access a full programme of theatre, dance, comedy, visual art, music, jazz and more – according to their own preference; online or live.

In Makhanda, the Festival will be staged live in venues across the city with limited audiences and full COVID-19 protocols in place. The Festival is reinventing its format by crossing over into the hybrid space when the Very Big Comedy Show unites live performances in three cities (Cape Town, Johannesburg and Makhanda) via a stream which will be presented online too.

The National Arts Festival Opens Bookings for Makhanda Live 

The Festival is expecting to attract most of its visitors from the Eastern Cape where there is already a loyal following of day trippers who come for their annual fix, and hopes that passionate art lovers from elsewhere will come too. The Eastern Cape will also be showcasing its talents across the programme from the Dakawa Jazz Festival to the Eastern Cape Dance Ensemble and the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra who will present the Gala Concert conducted by Richard Cock, with guest musician 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music, Guy Buttery. They will also present the ever popular Children’s Concert.

Also from the Eastern Cape Asanda Mqiki and Dumza Mzwana will be performing live on the Standard Bank Jazz Festival programme;  the show will be available on the NAF Online programme too. Festival-goers will also be rewarded with a performance by songbird Sibongile Mngoma as she celebrates jazz and opera.

A much-anticipated show at the Festival is Kamphoer – Die Verhaal van Susan Nell starring Sandra Prinsloo as a survivor of the horror of a British concentration camp during the Anglo-Boer war. Creative documentary project One Take Grace reflects the decade-long collaboration between artist, Lindiwe Matshikiza and actor and community leader, Mothiba Grace Bapela, who met while working as a part-time actor and full-time domestic worker.

Simphiwe Dana appears in the film My Culture, My Music
Sandra Prinsloo in Kamphoer, Die Verhaal van Susan Nell. Photo by Jesse Kramer

Nashilongweshipwe Mushaandja’s ZILIN is a sonic journey through a borderless Africa using Zilin, a vocal technique from Benin in Africa; a musical style that is used in rituals and practices.  Another musical journey, this time through film, is My Culture, My Music a celebration of the unique cultural landscape of South Africa through the expression of music. The large cast includes Simphiwe Dana and 2020 National Arts Festival featured artist, Madosini.

Clare Stopford’s Covid Moons tells the story of the disorientation and dislocation of the early days of the Coronavirus and our bewildered attempts to survive a full lockdown. In a noisy world, The Listening Biennial brings together an international group of artists, musicians, and researchers, as well as institutions and collectives across the globe, to foster questions and experiences of listening.

Co-creators Oupa Sibeko and Nicola Pilkington collaborate in Black is Blue. Drawing from the widespread practice of using seawater for healing and spiritual purposes and linked to the ‘people of water’, for whom the sea is a realm of ancestors, the work calls people to embrace the myth of an inland sea as a way to rethink the urban space; returning to the sea to repair wounds and find spiritual grounding.

Metsi journeys through a relationship tested by tough times and asks what you have left to give when you have nothing to give but your inner being.

Classical concert Reflections by the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra String Trio weaves together the unconventional combination of violin (David Bester), viola (Jan-Hendrik Harley) and double bass (Mariechen Meyer) taking listeners on a musical tour. In Planets and Symphonies Deconstructed, the Eastern Cape Philharmonic Orchestra Horn Ensemble presents a programme which showcases this versatile instrument.

Curator and artist, Zodwa Skeyi-Tutani’s interdisciplinary live performance work Inertia: Ubungeyo Mpazamo/Elwandle/Nithi Ngibanina Lo Makanda takes place at The Monument in Makhanda, weaving through a wounded history to address the silences that perpetuate divisions and exclusion in the communities of Makhanda. In this retelling, the artists invoke a strategy of mothering and care with the use of the various aspects of Intsomi, acknowledging the weight of the residue of colonial trauma still present in the place today.

Umdiyadiya is an isiXhosa word to describe the cloth installed inside the house to create the demarcation of rooms. The theatre piece Umdiyadiya is inspired by collective memories and seeks to track historical events in black households during South Africa’s turbulent recent past. Artist Wezile Mgibe remembers time spent in both welcoming and unwelcoming spaces, reflecting on experiences with family and friends.

A scene from Etherality
Aaron McIlroy in The Apology

The Award Ceremony is a film in three parts that tells the tale of a little girl anxiously awaiting her grandmother’s return to bring her new shoes so she can collect her school awards, it stars Kgalalelo Mfokazane, Sindi Montsho and Thishiwe Ziqubu. Rwandan filmmaker Kantarama Gahigiri’s Ethereality is the story of a man stranded in space for thirty years who finally gets to come home. Selected for the Chicago International Film Festival (2020), and screened previously at Clermont-Ferrand (2020) and Kurzfilmtage Winterthur (2019), What Did You Dream completes the triple bill with it’s tale set in the summer holidays in 1990 South Africa when 11-year-old Boipelo becomes consumed by the fact that, unlike her two cousins, she can no longer remember her dreams and therefore can’t help her granny play Fahfee.

Festival favourite Aaron McIlroy brings some satire into the mix with an hilarious look at the world of tone-deaf dudes and privilege in its many forms in the comedy The Apology.

Says National Arts Festival Artistic Director, Rucera Seethal, “The programme weaves through many distinct and different stories and many ways of telling stories too. Some are quiet and thoughtful, others are brimming with rage and hurt and many seek perspective on events past and present. We see the audience engaging in contemplative spaces with this programme and imagine it will leave them with much to think about in a time that calls us to re-engage with everything anew.”

The 2021 Fringe programme straddles the online space and returns to live stages in Makhanda. The Fringe programme will be released shortly. Excellence at the Fringe will once again enjoy the recognition of the Standard Bank Ovation Awards, which will review the works on the NAF 2021 Fringe and select those that stand apart. The Awards will culminate in an online ceremony to announce Gold, Silver and Bronze winners from the Festival.

You can find the Makhanda Live programme, here.

Tickets can also be purchased directly from the programme page.

A calendar view of the Festival programme is available to view and download.