National Arts Festival – more than ’11 days of Amazing’


Every year from early June, Makhanda is transformed into the home of the National Arts Festival. Homes and res rooms become Festival rentals, restaurants extend their kitchen hours, the donkeys go into hiding, and everything from halls and passageways, to studios, church halls, schools and coffee shops become theatres, galleries, concert halls and spaces for debate and experimentation.

Photo: Michelle Hodgkinson

The National Arts Festival is celebrating its 45th year in 2019. The country’s biggest multi-genre arts gathering has always been a space where freedom of speech and expression is valued. Outspoken creativity, protest and experimental forms of work were somehow left alone here by the repressive authorities of the day, and the Festival grew into a space where artists could come to meet eager audiences. Audiences and artists have changed but the excitement hasn’t and many students become a part of the Festival as part-time employees or just by immersing themselves in the entertainment on offer.

Says Festival CEO, Tony Lankester, “The National Arts Festival still stands for its core essential value of freedom of expression and today’s audiences are celebrating young exciting talent, gut-churning and brilliant revisitations of old works and new lenses on how we can blend mediums and ideas as we work on stages, outdoors and shack back yards. Strong new voices are leading the way.”

Photo: Jan Potgieter

The Festival is also an integral part of the town’s life and goes well beyond the big eleven days. The Monument is now managed by the National Arts Festival on behalf of the Grahamstown Foundation, and is host to a movie night every Saturday night: Movies at the Monument. The best way to enjoy this experience is to sign up as a Monument Movie Club member. Pay R20 to become a member and buy movie credits for less. For instance, student members will get two movies for R50. For more, visit

Coming up in February (Sunday 24 & Monday 25), the National Arts Festival will present the sixth edition of Masicule! The Guy Butler Theatre at the Monument will be overflowing with the voices of nearly 1000 choristers from more than 15 choirs on one stage in a powerful, feel-good show, which this year also features the iconic Vusi Mahlasela as the Masicule! guest artist. Tickets cost R40 for adults and R30 for students, scholars and pensions and are available at For more information call Danielle 046 622 1103.

Photo: Michelle Hodgkinson

To get all the inside info on the National Arts Festival, sign up for Fest45, an e-zine that gives more insight into the work on and off stage as it is created. Pop over to to sign up and also all the social media details to get your Festival news first!

The National Arts Festival 2019 will take place from 27 June until 7 July.

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