International acts give audiences the chance to experience world-class talent on our local stages

“One of the things that sets the National Arts Festival apart from most other Festivals in South Africa is how it attracts participation from artists around the world, giving our audiences the chance to see some amazingly special work,” says Tony Lankester, CEO of the National Arts Festival. “We have partnerships with embassies, other festivals and producers globally and are able to bring productions to Makhanda with their support. Not only are we able to bring this great work to our stages for our audiences, but the intimate experience of the Festival and Makhanda gives South African artists the rare opportunity to get a window into the work of their peers from other countries. It’s a win-win-win formula that contributes to the special and unique flavour of the National Arts Festival.”

“These visiting productions are world class,” says Acting Executive Producer Nobesuthu Rayi, and “continue to be vocal about the many societal issues that we find both in our country and worldwide”.

For example, issues around the LGBTIQ+ community are the focus of PINK MON€Y (dance), a collaboration of artists from South Africa and Switzerland. “Pink money” is the currency with which you can “buy tolerance, provided you have the necessary cash”.

American storyteller Steven Fales brings CONFESSIONS OF A MORMON BOY (theatre) – his journey from being a devoted, sixth-generation Mormon and father of two to coming out as gay and being excommunicated from his church.

Swedish theatre group Sirquis Alfon’s I AM SOMEBODY (performance art) combines magic, comedy and music in a unique high-tech show for the internet generation (and everybody else).

Another family show for all ages is THE BOOKBINDER (family theatre), an award-wining show presented by Trick of the Light Company from New Zealand. This story spills from the pages, combining puppetry, story telling and live action.

Representing Ireland is comic Dylan Moran, who holds the Festival’s record for selling out his 2015 show in the fastest time. He returns to town with a new work, Dr Cosmos (comedy), in which he will once again offer his unique take on love, politics, misery and the everyday absurdities of life, all served up with poetical panache. 

German-Chinese choreographer Hannah Ma and her company of international dancers presents two powerful unapologetic productions, SYLPHIDES (dance), a light-hearted, ironic, poetic interpretation of the romantic ballet Les Sylphides; and WANDERER (dance), about the search for home.

Nigerian dancer, choreographer and activist Qudus Onikeku presents SPIRIT CHILD (dance), inspired by Ben Okri’s classic,The Famished Road.

UK-based artist Mira Calix, who was born in South Africa, presents IN SITU (music), for which she has transformed imaging data from specialists in ultrasound and interplanetary geology from the visual to the sonic.

There’s an international presence on the Creativate Digital Arts Festival programme too, headlined by ERSATZ, French director and performer Julien Mellano’s freely fantasised projection of a future man. the UK’s curious directive brings FROGMAN, while American artist GARY BASEMAN will present a talk on his travelling work, The Purr Room.

Swedish trombonist Nils Lindgren, Kenya’s Nairobi Horns, New York’s ‘hippest band’ Too Many Zooz and Italian jazz signer Susanna Stivali are just some of the international musicians on the line-up for this year’s magnificent Standard Bank Jazz Festival. Read more