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New leadership for the National Arts Festival

2020 is set to be a big year for the National Arts Festival, with a new CEO, Monica Newton and new artistic director, Rucera Seethal, leading the organisation forward. 

Monica Newton National Arts Festival new CEO
Monica Newton

Experienced arts administrator Monica Newton has been appointed as the new chief executive officer of the National Arts Festival. She stepped into her new position in January 2020.
     Newton is highly regarded in the arts sector and has been exceedingly successful in her previous roles. She has worked with national, provincial and local government and related government agencies since 1997. Newton has been part of creative industry strategy, development and research processes across South Africa, and has worked in the field of cultural development and the creative industries for most of her career. Some of her previous roles include Head of the Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation; Deputy Director-General: Arts and Culture Promotion at the national Department of Arts and Culture; and CEO of the National Arts Council. 
     ‘We are very pleased that Monica has accepted the position of CEO,’ Ayanda Mjekula, the chair of the National Arts Festival Board, says. ‘Not only is her experience of working in the arts sector extensive but she also brings institutional and business insight that is an absolute asset to us. We look forward to having her lead the Festival forward.’ 
     Newton will be working with a strong team of creative and executive team members, including newly appointed Artistic Director Rucera Seethal, Executive Producer Nobesuthu Rayi, Administrative Director Kate Davies, Fringe Manager Zikhona Monaheng, as well as Technical Director Nicci Spalding.
     On the task ahead as CEO of the largest arts festival in the country, Newton says: ‘The National Arts Festival makes a major contribution to the arts ecosystem in South Africa and, like all things in the current cultural, economic and social climate, must adapt to prevailing conditions. The Festival and, in fact, all the activities initiated by the Grahamstown Foundation, are also fundamental to the economic and social fabric of the city of Makhanda and the surrounding areas.

‘The task of ensuring that the Festival and all activities contribute meaningfully, sustainably and responsibly to the life of the City thus is of equal importance. I am looking forward to taking on this challenging role and its enormous responsibilities and to working with the current and new members of the team and, of course, the numerous partners that make this extraordinary programme possible.’
     Newton will also be the CEO of the Grahamstown Foundation, the organisation that aims to further the cultural and creative life of Makhanda and make a broader contribution to South Africa. The Foundation works in tandem with the National Arts Festival to produce Scifest Africa, the English Olympiad, the South African Schools’ Festivals and the Monument Movie Club.
     The Board of the National Arts Festival has also enjoyed some recent appointments. These include well-known arts advocate Michelle Constant, former Market Theatre CEO and current CEO of Ditsong Museums, Annabell Lebethe, and award-winning author Dr Siphiwo Mahala, who also works in the Presidency. The most recent board appointment is multi-award-winning writer, professional director, lecturer, curator and artist Mandla Mbothwe. Former National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankester remains as a Board member, which will help facilitate continuity.
     The 46th National Arts Festival takes place in Makhanda (Grahamstown) from 25 June to 5 July 2020.

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