A sold-out performance by Freshlyground and a free parade through the streets of Makhanda on Sunday saw out the National Arts Festival, an 11-day cultural binge of arts and entertainment.

Organisers say it is too early to report back on ticket sales, but the overall impression is that the 2019 National Arts Festival was resilient in tough economic times and very well received by audiences.

On Saturday night, a ceremony was held to celebrate the winners of the Standard Bank Ovation Awards, which celebrate artistic innovation, excellence, the exploration of new performance styles and the courage to open new conversations at the National Arts Festival.

This year, the panel (who anonymously visit productions on the Fringe) comprised 28 members including artists, theatre practitioners, academics and other experts in the cultural field. Theatre-maker Mandisi Sindo was the convenor of this year’s panel, and he was joined by co-convenors Tara Notcutt and Nondumiso Msimang.

The Standard Bank Ovation Award ceremony honoured all the winners of Ovations recognised throughout the Festival’s run, and also named the winners of the prestigious Gold, Silver and Bronze Awards. Special awards were also given across numerous categories.

Winning an Ovation Award is considered an important mark of quality work and the accolade forms a pathway from the Fringe to the Arena programme for which Ovation winners are invited to submit works.

Says convenor Mandisi Sindo, “The National Arts Festival Fringe programme is and has always been the heart of the National Arts Festival. It gives platform and a space to all art practitioners from all art forms. The Fringe programme was made up of hundreds of productions across theatre, family fare, comedy, illusion, dance, contemporary music, music recital , poetry, visual art, film and physical theatre – some from the development phase of creation and others already in the professional spectrum.”

This year’s Fringe festival productions spoke strongly of the political and environmental issues that affect us all.

The 2019 Standard Bank Ovation Award winners are:

Gold Standard Bank Ovation Award winners

  • XOVA – South African State Theatre

Silver Standard Bank Ovation Award winners

  • FRUIT – Sketch Productions (Theatre)
  • WARONA – Ukwanda Puppets & Design Art Collective (Theatre)
  • UNFATHOMABLE by Alex Halligey and Athena Mazarakis (Theatre)
  • LOST & FOUND – Matchbox Theatre Collective and Theatre on Pointe (Dance)

Bronze Standard Bank Ovation Winners

  • CURRENTLY (G)OLD – Kwasha Theatre Company (Theatre)
  • (W)ASEM – Terence Makapan  (Theatre)
  • A PLACE OF KNOWING – Intsusa in collaboration with TheatreDuo (Theatre)
  • UMNOTHO THE ECONOMY – Young Outreach Artists (Theatre)
  • YOU SHOULD BE DANCING – FollowSpot Productions (Comedy)

Standard Bank Ovation Cut Above Winners

  • QUAVA by Quava Vocal Choir (Music Recital and Review)
  • UMTHOMBO – Amandla Danca Teatro ZA (Dance, Physical or Visual Theatre)
  • BENNY BUSHWACKER – Mamba Productions (Comedy)
  • FAINT PATCH OF LIGHT – Sizile Arts Collective (Theatre)

Standard Bank Ovation Ensemble Award Winners

  • The cast of CURRENTLY (G)OLD by Kwasha Theatre Company (Theatre)
  • The cast of PLACE OF KNOWING by Intsusa & Theatre Duo (Theatre)
  • The cast of UMNOTHO THE ECONOMY by the Young Outreach Artists (Theatre)
  • The cast of WARONA by the Ukwanda Puppets & Design Art Collective (Theatre)
  • The cast of JEREMIAH FYAH ISES AND THE BAAKAHYAAD BAND by Jeremiah Fyah Ises (Contemporary Music)

Standard Bank Ovation Solo Award Winners

Awarded to a single performer

  • FRUIT – Matshidiso Mokoteli (Theatre)
  • HOW TO BE A POLITICIAN IN SOUTH AFRICA 2019 – Nkosinathi Maki (Comedy)
  • WHEN COASTS MEET – Khwezi Becker (Theatre)
  • (W)ASEM – Terence Makapan (Theatre)
  • BENNY BUSHWHACKER – Ben Voss  (Comedy)

Standard Bank Ovation Spirit of the Fringe Award

Awarded to performers or productions whose work represented the spirit, variety of the Fringe

  • THE BLIND DATE by the South African Library for the Blind
  • JR NKOSI DUO by JR Nkosi
  • FollowSpot Productions
  • Rob van Vuuren
  • Stuart Lightbody

Standard Bank Ovation Award Winners 2019

The full list of the productions that received Standard Bank Ovation Awards at the 2019 National Arts Festival are:

  • A FAINT PATCH OF LIGHT – Sizile Arts Collective
  • MAKHANDA KWANTU CHOIR: VOICE DANCE! – Kwantu Group
  • 047 – Muthaland Entertainment
  • iGRUFFALO – National Arts Festival / Tall Stories UK
  • YOUR PERFECT LIFE – F Creations
  • BENNY BUSHWHACKER – Mamba Productions
  • UMNOTHO THE ECONOMY – Young Outreach Artists
  • (W)asem – Terence Makapan
  • WALLS & PILLOWS – Peo Entle Production
  • WARONA – Ukwanda Puppets & Design Art Collective
  • XOVA – South African State Theatre
  • THE CHOCOLATE CHRONICLES – Siv Ngesi Productions
  • FRUIT – Sketch Productions
  • CLIQUE CLAQ
  • WHEN COASTS MEET
  • A STAR IS BORN – THE RISE AND FALL OF JUDY GARLAND – Wela Kapela Productions
  • JEREMIAH FYAH ISES AND THE BAAKAHYAAD BAND – Jeremiah Fyah Ises
  • CURRENTLY (G)OLD – Kwasha Theatre Company
  • NGUVU YA MBEGU – Abengcongolo Collective
  • UMTHOMBO – Amandla Danca Teatro ZA
  • FRIZZ POP – Frizz Pop Comedy
  • SAXMAN ANDREW YOUNG & BAND
  • HOW TO BE A POLITICIAN IN SOUTH AFRICA – 2019 – Maki Holdings (Pty) Ltd
  • THE SYRINGA TREE
  • UNFATHOMABLE 
  • YOU SHOULD BE DANCING – FollowSpot Productions
  • TATS IS CANCELLED – Siv Ngesi Productions
  • LOST & FOUND – Matchbox Theatre Collective and Theatre on Pointe
  • LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD & THE BIG BAD METAPHORS – University of Pretoria
  • MOTHER EARTH – Nan Hua Temple
  • A PLACE OF KNOWING – Intsusa in collaboration with TheatreDuo
  • QUAVA VOCAL GROUP

2019 Student Awards

The winners of the 2019 Student Awards were also announced at the Standard Bank Ovation Awards ceremony. They are:

Best Writer

  • The writer of LE JOURNAL – The Market Theatre Laboratory 

Best Director 

  • Noluthando Mpho Sibisi for SALT –  Rhodes University

Best Actors

  • The cast of LE JOURNAL (Boipelo Mahabane, Khanya Zibaya, Khanyisile Malatsi, Khethukhuthula Jele, Miriam Mayet, Mosehlana Mamaregane, Mpho Khobane, Ndumiso Mazibuko, Sicelo Buthelezi, Wonder Ndlovu, Violet Moeng)  – The Market Theatre Laboratory 

Best Ensemble

  • PHITLHO (THE HIDDEN) – Kuena Khama, Ipelegeng Leepile, Hlobile Makukule, Lehloanyane Mohapi, Koketso Motlhabane, Bathabile Ngxingweni, Maboroko Ramusi, Sebenzile Sibiya, and Jaco Van Zyl. – AFDA Johannesburg

Best Overall Student Production

  • SALT – Rhodes University

Awards panel

The 2019 Standard Bank Ovations Awards panel were:

Pesa Pheko, Mxolisi Masilela, Keabetswe Motlhale, Thami Mbongo, Alfredo Brillenbourg, Kgomotso Ditshwene, Sizwe Zuma, Tiisetso Tlelima, Phemello Hellemann, Michèle de Villiers, Themba Mbuli, Mziyanda Mancam, Chumani Mtshixa, Tsepiso Nzayo, Lonwabo Xatasi, Nomthandazo Nxabela, Tinyiko Barbara Ngobeni, Zizipho Matu, Bob Meijs, Bailey Snyman, Ralph Howell, Hannah Howell, Tara Notcutt, Hannah Ma, Steven Fales, Fundi Liphaphang, Mandisi Sindo

Nondumiso Lwazi Msimang adjudicated the Student Theatre Awards.

Looking to NAF2020

The 2020 National Arts Festival will take place from 25 June to 5 July. The Call for Proposals for 2020 National Arts Festival Main programme will be announced shortly. 

Main image: The winners of the 2019 Standard Bank Ovation Awards / Mark Wessels