Arts festival celebrates turning 40


24 April 2014

South Africa’s National Arts Festival, held in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

The main programme will feature artists from 26 countries in more than 550 performances in theatre, dance, performance art and music, the festival said in a press release on Wednesday. It will include the work of 65 former Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners.

The festival has commissioned nine music works, with musicians with more than 40 South African Music Awards and three Grammy Awards between them on the bill.

They are also planning “an ambitious, sprawling ‘Creation of a Nation’ project across Grahamstown”.

“It is a bold programme that veers between the extravagant and the intimate as it attempts to reflect on major milestones – of the festival, of the Young Artist Awards – which have been sponsored by Standard Bank for 30 years – and of South Africa, in our 20th year of democracy,” artistic director Ismail Mahomed said.

The event, which contributes an estimated R349.9-million to the economy of the Eastern Cape each year, has become a touchstone for the state of South African art. “This year our artists have risen to the triple-anniversary challenge with some extraordinary proposals that we are excited to bring to life,” Mahomed said.

Balancing the Main programme is the vast and exciting fringe, supported primarily by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund. “The fringe, also celebrating an anniversary as it is presented for the 35th time, continues to grow as South Africa’s biggest open-access platform. Hundreds of productions bring their talent to Grahamstown and fill theatres with their work across every conceivable genre,” Mahomed said.

Straddling the Fringe and the Main is the increasingly popular Arena programme, which showcases the work of previous Standard Bank Ovation Award winners as well as award-winning work from other Festivals around the world – this year including the Amsterdam, Prague and the Adelaide Fringe Festivals.


The Thinkfest programme will feature a recording of two panel discussions by the BBC World Service for broadcast globally to the service’s estimated 180-million listeners.

Winners of the Short Sharp Stories Award for fiction writing and the Arts Journalist of the Year award will be announced at the festival.

‘Family fare’

The Children’s Arts Festival and the Fingo Festival in Joza are just two of the initiatives which aim to reach out to families and younger audiences in the festival’s drive to create new and sustainable auidences.

“We’re also featuring, on our Arena programme, one of the world’s best beatboxers – Tom Thum – in collaboration with musician Jamie MacDowell, which will appeal to the whole family,” Mahomed said.

“We’re giving audiences the opportunity to think, reflect, celebrate, empathise, laugh and to look to the future through this year’s programme,” Mahomed said. “We’re proving that life begins at 40!”

  • Bookings for the 2014 National Arts Festival open on 9 May and can be made online at
  • Programmes can be obtained through selected Exclusive Books and Standard Bank branches from the beginning of May.
  • The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, The Department of Arts and Culture, The Eastern Cape Government, City Press and M Net.

Source: National Arts Festival