Skip links

#NAFPicks: What to see at this year’s National Arts Festival

The Creative Feel team will once again be attending and covering the annual National Arts Festival, taking place for the second time in a virtual format with a programme that’s filled to the brim with theatre, visual art, workshops, dance, comedy, and more. If you’re at a loss for where to begin, we’ve put together a few of our early picks to get you started.

Khaikari National Arts Festival 2021

ǂKhaikari – The Awakening

Looking for some short-form performance? ǂKhaikari – The Awakening is set in the Cape Flats and follows the journey of a woman experiencing a spiritual awakening as she begins to heed the call of her ancestors who speak to her through the ritual of her music, rhyme and dreams. It’s on as a video-on-demand performance until the end of the NAF so grab your tickets and get watching!

Dates: 8 – 31 July
Duration: 15 mins
Tickets: R35

Old Soul Waiting national arts festival line-up

Old Soul Waiting

We loved Slindile Mthembu’s IGAMA? last year. This vNAF, the performer and playwright returns with an experimental play titled Old Soul Waiting. The play highlights the split between the Western and African beliefs of the term ‘Spiritual awakening’. Old Soul Waiting aims to create a hybrid experience of what a spiritual awakening possibly looks like in the Western and the spiritual realm.

Dates: 13 – 21 July
Duration: 40 mins
Tickets: R100

very big comedy show National arts festival 2021

The Very Big Comedy Show

The comedy line-up is a key component of every NAF and this year is no different as Rob van Vuuren and TaylorMade productions bring an all-star comedy line up show to your home. Expect 12 of the country’s best comedians split over three live Zoom shows that should hopefully keep us laughing through the lockdown.

Dates: Various dates, starting 8 July 2021. See the full programme for details.
Duration: 70 mins
Tickets: R50

Hedy National Arts Festival 2021

HEDY! – The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr

The extraordinary tale of Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood star and inventor of the frequency hopping and spread spectrum technology that make the world of wireless communication tick, is brought to life in this multi-award-winning play by theatre maker Heather Massie. For the NAF, HEDY! will be streamed in real time from a live performance in Reykjavík, Iceland. This is one for lovers of theatre, science, the silverscreen, and more.

Dates: 10 July 2021 at 17:00
Duration: 90 mins
Tickets: R40

History TBC National Arts Festival 2021

History [TBC]: Refocusing the South African War

Maureen de Jager’s History [TBC] comprises an installation of original hand-bound book-works and videos, ‘activated’ through three performance-lectures. Informed by archival research conducted in the UK and SA, the exhibition focuses a contemporary lens on the South African War (or Anglo-Boer War) of 1899-1902, situating it within present-day decolonising South Africa and a legacy of history-writing marred by erasure and exclusion. Using art to retell SA history – what’s not to love?

Dates: 8 – 31 July 2021 (see programme for performance lecture dates)
Format: Exhibition Capture
Tickets: R40 per performance-lecture

Unmasked National Arts Festival


A strongly relevant piece, Unmasked is an abstract body of work that illustrates how young people are struggling with their mental health as the Covid-19 pandemic hits South Africa. As we all continue to makes sense of life and loss during the pandemic, it’s crucial to witness creative work that fits into the landscape of mental illness in the arts. Coming in at 25 minutes, it’s a dance piece you can watch at your leisure, or even over your lunch break.

Dates: 18 July 2021 at 20:00
Duration: 25 mins
Tickets: R40

Bona.Pina National Arts Festival 2021


The Creative Feel team loves movement, and we love contemporary dance. Being able to view it during a time where mobility and the arts are so radically curtailed? Count us in. Bina.Pina is a show that seeks to locate breath through movement and dance, and to explore the relationship between music and movement. It’s also online and available for viewing for the duration of the NAF. Don’t miss it!

Dates: 8 – 31 July 2021
Duration: 25 mins
Tickets: R30

Commission Continua National Arts Festival 2021

Commission Continua

Having had the opportunity to watch an early iteration of this performance at The Centre for the Less Good Idea, we can’t wait to see Commission Continua at this year’s NAF. Following the narrative of dowdy office worker Bright Maluleke, the play expands on the metaphor of paper to tackle notions of truth, archives, and the heavy weight of history as it unpacks the many commissions of inquiry in South Africa’s history.

Dates: 11 July 2021 at 19:00
Duration: 55 mins
Tickets: R40

Van Wyk National Arts Festival 2021

Van Wyk, Storyteller of Riverlea

The late poet, political activist, and writer Chris van Wyk left behind a wealth of writing that is sharp, funny, heart-breaking and insightful. In Van Wyk, Storyteller of Riverlea, actor Zane Meas (who’s largely known for his television work) takes to the stage to explore the life and work of Van Wyk, so much of which is rooted in the Johannesburg community of Riverlea. If it’s anything like Van Wyk’s writing, this performance should be one of the stand-out shows at the NAF.

Dates: 29 – 31 July 2021
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: R40

Writing for Hea;ing National Arts Festival 2021

Writing for Healing

We’re all in the business of words here at Creative Feel so vangile gantsho’s Writing for Healing workshop is high up on our list of #NAFPicks this year. As the pandemic continues, and we continue to try and navigate lockdown, loss, and isolation in South Africa, communing through writing sounds like the perfect exercise in making sense of it all.

Dates: 14 July 2021 at 16:00
Duration: 120 mins
Tickets: Free

Kganya National Arts Festival 2021

KGANYA (Light)

The inimitable Lulu Mlangeni returns to the stage to present KGANYA (Light) a narrative portrayed by four woman performers including 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, Mlangeni who choreographed the work. The use of spoken text to amplify the storyline will give context on religion; culture and symbolism. In short: We cannot wait to see it!

Dates: 10 – 20 July 2021
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: R40

Sisonke National Arts Festival 2021

Sisonke Xonti

Standard Bank Young Artist Award-winner for Jazz Sisonke Xonti returns to the NAF’s Jazz Festival this year and we’re strongly recommending you put his performance down on your ‘must-watch’ list. As a saxophonist, Xonti has a way of conveying some of the most complex and universal forms of emotion through music. He’ll also be performing tracks from his resoundingly successful 2020 album uGaba the Migration.

Dates: 9 – 31 July 2021
Duration: 60 mins
Tickets: R50

extraordinary unusual National Arts Festival 2021

(extra)ordinary, (un)usual

Script readings and experimental monologues have taken on a renewed success in the age of lockdowns and live-streams. In (extra)ordinary, (un)usual, six actors present a selection of monologues, each one telling the story of a unique individual, and with no two life stories being the same. If you’re into hybrid film and theatre events, and you love a good story, this one’s for you.

Dates: 8 – 31 July 2021
Duration: 90 mins
Tickets: R50

View the full NAF21 programme here, check out our Virtual Events Portal for more National Arts Festival events including the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, or read our article to find out how the National Arts Festival had only ten days to change their hybrid live and virtual programme to a fully only one, due to the announcement of lockdown level 4: The National Arts Festival’s ten-day lockdown pivot.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.