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National Arts Festival to be a Hybrid Festival Experience in 2021

UPDATE: Following the recent presidential announcement that South Africa has been placed under Level 4 Lockdown restrictions, the Makhanda live iteration of the 2021 National Arts Festival (NAF) will no longer be taking place from 8 – 18 July. This follows the cancellation of the Gauteng performances as part of the Standard Bank Presents programme. While it seems as if the 2021 NAF will migrate online, the festival has yet to release an official statement. Keep an eye on Creative Feel for further updates.

Following a purely virtual festival in 2020, the National Arts Festival (NAF) has announced that it will present a multi-layered arts experience for its 2021 edition.

The NAF experience will revive its live 11 day festival in its home city of Makhanda in the Eastern Cape from 8 – 18 July (Makhanda Live) and stage a National Arts Festival Online which will be entirely online in July. And, for the first time ever, the National Arts Festival will present a series of shows, in partnership with Standard Bank, in cities across the country. The collection, called Standard Bank Presents, will give audiences across the country a taste of what the Festival has to offer from 17 June to 4 July 2021. 
     Speaking on the new hybrid format, NAF CEO Monica Newton says ‘The National Arts Festival has adapted its Festival experience to bring the arts to audiences where they are and at a time when we still need to be very careful about where we go and what we do to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. We are curating a tighter, more intimate Festival in Makhanda and we do have to work very carefully around the Covid protocols, but we think it will be an opportunity to feel the pulse of a Covid-impacted arts world and to hear artists speak from live stages. We invite audiences to come and share this important moment with us.’ 

  • National Arts Festival Makhanda 2021
  • National Arts Festival Makhanda 2021
  • National Arts Festival Makhanda 2021

Adapting to an ever-shifting reality

The NAF successfully transitioned into an online festival in 2020, drawing a global audience of over 83 000 visitors and breaking new ground for the South African arts sector. ‘Online experiences are here to stay and we are excited about further integrating this element into our offering,’ says Newton. 
     The National Arts Festival’s decision to present work in other cities was founded on the realisation that some audiences may not be willing or able to travel far and that many artists would struggle to afford the costs of travel to Makhanda as a result of the impact of the pandemic.

‘Our new showcase, Standard Bank Presents will give people a taste of the National Arts Festival and a window into what our artists are thinking and doing. As we adapt to our ever-shifting Covid reality, we need to try new things and imagine new ways for the arts to speak to audiences.’

NAF CEO Monica Newton
Monica Newton CEO National Arts Festival Makhanda 2021
National Arts Festival CEO, Monica Newton

Newton said the Festival was realistic about the capacity of audiences and artists to travel to the Festival in Makhanda but pointed out that the Festival’s Eastern Cape visitors accounted for 55 % of their pre-Covid attendance figures in 2019. This points to the likelihood of the live event in Makhanda largely attracting day-trippers and weekenders, and of course the Super Fans; the ardent group of festival-goers who have already signalled their intention to support the live performances, no matter where they are.  
     The 2021 National Arts Festival Experience’s Makhanda Live will showcase the works of the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artists and will also be the stage on which the 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists will be announced. The Standard Bank Jazz Festival will take place live and online, reaching a jazz-loving audience locally, on the continent, and across the world.  

Important Dates:

  • The programme for the Festival will be announced on 7 June 2021. 
  • The Standard Bank Presents showcase takes place in various cities from 17 June – 4 July. 
  • The National Arts Fesival’s Makhanda Live will take place in Makhanda from 8 – 18 July 2021. 
  • The Online National Arts Festival takes place during the month of August on the Festival website.

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