The Grahamstown Nationa Arts Festival – An insider view – By Khanyisa Khenese

By Khanyisa Khenese

The countdown and preparation in Makhanda are complete, SA’s biggest and largest National Arts Festival celebrates 50 years of being a cultural Mecca.

The National Arts Festival was founded in 1974 and it has been held in Makhanda since it was established. This year’s 50th NAF started on 20 June and will end on 30 June, with a unique atmosphere of the festival running throughout the 10 days. About 300 works and events are on offer.

The festival is a vibrant celebration that brings together people from Makhanda, different parts of the country, and around the world.

Attending Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival for the first time is an exciting experience that is filled with joy and excitement. This festival serves as a platform for the people of Makhanda to showcase their talents by honouring the past and celebrating the present.

According to the NAF press statement, Makhanda has become the annual destination for established artists, new and emerging talents, and the network of producers, writers, and creators who make and present works on South Africa’s stages.

Lithemba Nziweni, a visual artist and photographer. Photo: Image supplied

Lithemba Nziweni, a visual artist, photographer by profession, and filmmaker, is one of the local artists who will be showing his exhibition titled “Heritage”. The exhibition will showcase a series of explorations of how hair plays a significant part in Black people’s identity.

A display of the work of Nziweni in his exhibition room. Photo: Lithemba Nziweni

Lithemba says, “The festival is going to expose me to a completely different market as many people who will be attending the festival are people who normally do not see my work. Many people that come through are locals and Grahamstown outsiders, so the festival is a great platform to showcase my work to the audience”

The festival will feature a variety of shows, for example, the MAGCAM group from Bloemfontein will perform during the festival. According to the founder of MAGCAM, Sikhuthali Oliver Bonga, the MAGCAM is a play that traces untold African Matriarchal heroics within the folds of female initiation rites and the great Bantu migration from central Africa to South Africa.

MAGCAM cast performing about high ritual charged for women’s theatre production: Photo: Image supplied.

“It is important that people should attend this work to witness an Indigenous African mother fighting dangerous evil spirits and to learn about the unspoken migration of the Bantu from central Africa to South Africa”

As the National Arts Festival celebrates a big milestone a 50th anniversary, it cherishes memories with talented performers and special events.