The National Arts Festival is serving up a massive ‘Banquet of the Arts’ for its 38th edition, which runs from 28 June to 8 July in Grahamstown this year.
Thirty two tons of additional equipment will be brought into Grahamstown to help transform every corner of the city into a performance space, with over 1000 lights to be rigged in an unprecedented 59 venues. With over 80 productions on the Main Programme, 8 on the Arena and a record 390 shows on the Fringe, the programme will continue to delight the nearly national, continental and international visitors that make this annual arts pilgrimage. Last year the Festival reported attendance of just over 200 000 at its various events, crammed into 34km2 of space in Grahamstown.
The 11-day Festival contributes over R60 million to the GDP of Grahamstown each year, with a bigger impact being felt on the surrounding Cacadu District and Eastern Cape Province. Practical internship and mentorship programmes are being implemented in conjunction with Rhodes University, The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, The Tshwane University of Technology, and the University of the Witwatersrand; with an additional 400 jobs created during the Festival.
This year Grahamstown and the National Arts Festival will host the first World Fringe Alliance get-together. Formed last year and chaired by National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester, this Alliance is a bid to foster inter-country exchanges with productions on the Fringe programme; to jointly market Fringe Festivals and generate interest in the arts from global sponsors. “We were blown away by the support and encouragement from the 8-country members”, said Lankester. “All of the members have been invited to attend our 2012 Festival; and we’re hoping to welcome them all in June. Between us, the eight member Festivals (Brighton, Prague, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, New York, Perth, Adelaide and Grahamstown) have an audience of 1.5-million. By hosting this gathering we’re hoping to use the Alliance to promote Grahamstown and South Africa’s artists on a global platform.”
At the Main programme’s core is the cutting-edge work of the 2012 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners, who continue to challenge and explore new directions as they establish their artistic voices. The winners will present a varied and exciting programme of premieres. On the theatre stage is Princess Zinzi Mhlongo with her show Trapped, which travels to Austria after its world premiere in Grahamstown. Bailey Snyman’s presents a dance play – Moffie – inspired by Andre Carl van der Merwe’s eponymous novel. Soprano Kelebogile Boikanyo performs as the soloist in the Gala Concert as well as in her own soiree in the Rhodes Chapel. Mikhael Subotzky takes audiences on a multi-media journey behind the lens in his work entitled Retinal Shift. Pianist Afrika Mkhize forms part of the immensely popular Jazz section of the Festival programme, and promises not to disappoint.
Another exciting aspect of this year’s Festival programme is the launch of The French Season in South Africa, in Grahamstown, staged with the support of the French Institute in South Africa, the Embassy of France and the South African Department of Arts and Culture. The launch sees several productions premièring, across several genres. Ster City, an exciting multi-disciplinary production by French theatre-maker Jean-Paul Delore, is the featured production in the Theatre programme.
The Arena continues to provide challenging content to bridge the gap between the Main and the Fringe programmes. The Fringe programme serves as an accurate barometer of the state of the arts from all angles, and continues to push boundaries on every level, as a platform for debate on current issues both socially and politically.
“This year’s National Arts Festival programme is packed with excellence and innovation. Not without challenges faced by the country in general, it is nevertheless an abundant, rich and diverse programme. Most importantly it makes conscious attempts to extend the range of work from the classical to the cutting-edge contemporary. Several inter-disciplinary works and collaborations and a whole new category of live art that blurs boundaries between genres and invites out the box thinking, bears testimony to a programme that secures the tried and the tested, but that invites and probes works that take risk and break new ground. Several international works, including those from the much anticipated French Season in South Africa, ultimately make the Festival impossible to miss. There are works across the disciplines that walk a tightrope of edgy aesthetics from such diverse and far flung sources and places, that viewed altogether in one space in just over a week, will make for rich pickings and substantial debate, as we watch this Festival grow in size and authority.” says Chairperson of the Festival’s Artistic Committee, Jay Pather.
The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2012 with a suitably powerful line-up of local and international musicians and teachers, brought here not only to perform for the audiences of the National Arts Festival, but also to inspire the 350 young South African jazz players gathered in Grahamstown.
Bookings for this year’s “11 Days of Amaz!ng” are open. Tickets are available through Computicket. Booking kits are available from selected Standard Bank branches, selected Exclusive Books and Computicket branches. For more information on the programme, accommodation and travel options visit www.nationalartsfestival.co.za. Also join the National Arts Festival group on Facebook for all the latest news, or follow us on Twitter @artsfestival.
The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, The Eastern Cape Government, The National Arts Council, City Press and M Net.