In these past two years of pandemic context, the festival, like many other institutions, has had to rethink its purpose, its place, and how it manifests itself.

One pivotal part of the festival’s identity is its locality, it’s relationship to the environment, history and the stories and visions of those who occupy the town and the festival.  Despite the ease of global reach of digital work, as experienced in a 2020 and 2021 edition of the National Arts Festival which weighed heavily on digital and online content, there is also a palpable urge to reach back to the town which is the genesis of the festival.  

Across South Africa we have seen artists transforming their practice from a live performative making and presenting, to digital presentation using new technologies to devise and create.  These are radical shifts, they are by no means easy to consider let alone do, never mind in the face of many challenges which this pandemic period has immersed our society in.  Yet, South African artists have been making these shifts, experimenting and learning.  

A central concern within the artistic direction of the festival is the artist and their work: caring for their trajectory and their vision.  The Makhanda project has been an opportunity for the festival to turn its attention inwards, to work with a selection of Makhandian artists in considering their work, sometimes anew, using film or digital approaches for online platforms.  There is of course no one way, there is only an openness to experiment, learn, share, support and challenge each other, and this is where the basis for the Makhanda Project rests.  In response to our artists’ propositions, the Makhanda Project paired experienced artists (mentors) in other parts of South Africa together with local artists to provide the opportunity to share practice, approach, strategy and experience, to exchange perspectives and provide critical engagement between peers so necessary in the creation of strong artistic work.  Each Makhandian artist challenged themselves and took their practice into new directions, in conversation and consultation with their mentors, resulting in six new works available for viewing through the National Arts Festival website.  

The National Arts Festival, through a breath of projects from the Makhanda Project and the festival itself, plays a role in instigating new relationships and inquiry across contexts in our inescapably interconnected world.  The Makhanda Project planted seeds for new perspectives, relationships, and artistic pursuits coming out of the town which has hosted the festival for all these years.  

Weyisile (conquered)




Movers & Shakers in the Eastern Cape


Abantu Bahamba Apha


One Art Documentary


The Lost Conversations