National Arts Festival
|National Arts Festival|
|Inaugurated||July 13, 1973|
|Patron(s)||Standard Bank, MNET, National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, City Press, Eastern Cape Government|
|National Arts Festival|
The Festival consists of a Main and Fringe programme both administered by the National Arts Festival Office. The Festival is reliant on sponsorship with the core sponsors being the Eastern Cape Government, Standard Bank of South Africa, National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, National Arts Council, Transnet, City Press newspaper and MNet.
The programme comprises drama, dance, physical theatre, comedy, opera, music, jazz, visual art exhibitions, film, student theatre, street theatre, lectures, craft fair, workshops, tours (of the city and surrounding historic places) and a children's arts festival.
The event has always been open to all regardless of race, colour, sex or creed. As no censorship or artistic restraint has ever been imposed on works presented in Grahamstown the Festival served as an important forum for political and protest theatre during the height of the apartheid era, and it still offers an opportunity for experimentation across the arts spectrum. Its significance as a forum for new ideas and an indicator of future trends in the arts cannot be underestimated.
Grahamstown has been associated with carnivals and festivals for more than 180 years as British immigrants established the tradition of celebrating landmark anniversaries on a grand scale. When a movement gained ground last century to erect a memorial to these pioneers it was agreed that it should be a “living” monument presenting festivals, conferences and other gatherings.
An Inaugural Festival was held in 1974 when the 1820 Settlers National Monument was officially opened, with the exception of 1975, a festival has been organised every year since then. The Festival was a project of the Grahamstown Foundation for 28 years and in 2002 became a Section 21 Company with an independent board of directors. It however still operates out of the 1820 Settlers National Monument where it rents office space and the performance facilities.
From the beginning the programme was not confined to one venue, other facilities in the city were also used. A trend that developed as the Festival grew and today approximately 50 venues are scattered throughout the Grahamstown area.
The Main Programme
A committee of experts in the various disciplines selects the content of the Main programme. The planning process takes into account what is available locally and from outside South Africa. Three considerations that influence decisions are the artistic merits of any submission, the creation of a varied and balanced programme, and the costs involved. The Committee strives for excellence in all aspects of the programme, an approach that has assisted in bringing in sponsorship money for world class shows from a number of foreign governments and large multinational corporations.
Today, the Fringe is on an equal footing with the Main Festival. Seasoned performers and famous directors can just as easily be found on either programme, and a slot on the main programme one year does not preclude a return to the Fringe the next. The distinguishing feature of the Fringe is that it is open to all and exempt from the selection process that applies to the Main programme. Fringe participants are responsible for their own costs and 85% of their box office sales accrue to them directly. They are liable for certain payments for venue hire and registration fees.
Young Artist Awards
The Young Artist Awards, sponsored by the Standard Bank, are presented by the National Arts Festival Committee to emerging, relatively young South African artists who have demonstrated exceptional ability in their chosen fields but who have not yet achieved national exposure and acclaim.
Festival Committee members, fellow artists and interested members of the public, nominate artists. The Festival Committee, a group of experts in the various arts disciplines, decides on the final recipients.
Designed to encourage the recipients in the pursuit of their careers, a key aspect of the awards is that they guarantee the artists a place on the main programme of the forthcoming National Arts Festival. Apart from a cash prize, each of the winners receive substantial financial backing for their Festival participation whether this involves the mounting of an exhibition or the staging of a production.
A maximum of five awards are made annually in any one of the disciplines of drama, music, jazz, visual art, dance and film. Since the inception of the awards in 1981 a total of 105 awards have been presented plus five special awards to artists in recognition of their contribution to the National Arts Festival and the arts of South Africa. A complete list of previous winners is as follows: 
|2014||Njabulo Madlala||Greg Homann||Nicola Elliott||Kyle Shepherd||Hasan & Husain Essop||Jahmil XT Qubeka (Film)
Donna Kukama (Performance Art)
|2013||Runette Botha||Prince Lamla||Fana Tshabalala||Shane Cooper||Mary Sibande||Anthea Moys (Performance Art)|
|2012||Kelebogile Boikanyo||Princess Mhlongo||Bailey Snyman||Afrika Mkhize||Mikhael Subotzky||-|
|2011||Ben Schoeman||Neil Coppen||Mamela Nyamza||Bokani Dyer||Nandipha Mntambo||-|
|2010||Samson Diamond||Janni Younge||Mlu Zondi||Melanie Scholtz||Michael MacGarry||Claire Angelique (Film)|
|2009||Jacques Imbrailo||Ntshieng Mokgoro||Thabo Rapoo||Kesivan Naidoo||Nicholas Hlobo||-|
|2008||Zanne Stapelberg||Jaco Bouwer||Dada Masilo||Mark Fransman||Nontsikelelo Veleko||-|
|2007||Bronwen Forbay||-||Acty Tang||Shannon Mowday||Pieter Hugo||Akin Omotoso (Film)|
|2006||-||Sylvaine Strike||Hlengiwe Lushaba||Concord Nkabinde||Churchill Madikida||-|
|2005||Andile Yenana||Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom||Peter John Sabbagha||-||Wim Botha||Ramolao Makhene (Standard Bank Special Award for the invaluable contribution to and significant achievement in Theatre – posthumous award)|
|2004||Tutu Puoane||Mncedisi Baldwin Shabangu||Portia Lebogang Mashigo||-||Kathryn Smith||Moses Taiwa Molelekwa (Standard Bank Special Award for the invaluable contribution to and significant achievement in Music – posthumous award)|
|2003||Angela Gilbert||Yael Farber||Moya Michael||-||Berni Searle||Dumisani Phakhati (Film)|
|2002||Prince Kupi||Sello Maake Ka Ncube||Gregory Vuyani Maqoma||-||Brett Murray||-|
|2001||Fikile Mvinjelwa||Brett Bailey||Tracey Human||-||Walter Oltmann||-|
|2000||Gloria Bosman||Zenzi Mbuli||Moya Michael||-||Alan Alborough||-|
|1998||Bongani Ndodana||Aubrey Sekhabi||David Mudanalo Matamela and Debbie Rakusin||-||Nhlanhla Xaba||-|
|1997||Sibongile Mngoma (Opera)||Geoffrey Hyland||-||-||Lien Botha||Alfred Hinkel (Standard Bank Special Award for invaluable contribution to and significant achievement in Dance)|
|1996||Victor Masondo||Lara Foot Newton||Vincent Mantsoe||-||Trevor Makhoba||-|
|1995||Abel Motsoadi||John Ledwaba||Boyzie Cekwana||-||Jane Alexander||-|
|1994||Michael Williams (Opera)||Jerry Mofokeng||-||-||Sam Nhlengethwa||-|
|1993||Sibongile Khumalo||-||Christopher Kindo||-||Pippa Skotnes||-|
|1992||Raphael Vilakazi||Deon Opperman||-||-||Tommy Motswai||Kevin Harris (Film)|
|1991||-||Peter Ngwenya||-||-||Andries Botha||Darrell Roodt (Film)|
|1990||-||-||Robyn Orlin||-||Fée Halsted-Berning and Bonnie Ntshalintshali||-|
|1989||Johnny Clegg||Marthinus Basson||Gary Gordon||-||Helen Sebidi||Pieter-Dirk Uys (Drama) (1820 Foundation Special Award)|
|1988||-||Mbongeni Ngema||-||-||Margaret Vorster||-|
|1987||Hans Roosenschoon||-||-||-||William Kentridge||-|
|1986||-||Andrew Buckland||-||-||Gavin Younge||-|
|1985||Sidwill Hartman||Maishe Maponya||-||-||Marion Arnold||-|
|1984||-||Ken Leach||-||-||Peter Schütz||Lamar Crowson (Music) (Standard Bank / 1820 Foundation 10th Anniversary Special Award)|
|1983||David Kosviner||Paul Slabolepszy||-||-||Malcolm Payne||-|
|1982||-||Janice Honeyman||Lindy Raizenberg (Ballet)||-||Neil Rodger||-|
|1981||John Theodore||Richard E Grant||Robyn Orlin||-||Jules van de Vijver||-|
In 2010 the National Arts Festival launched a new set of awards for Fringe productions – the Standard Bank Ovation Awards. The Awards recognise excellence on the Fringe, and aim to seek out those productions that stand out from the crowd and are innovative, original and creatively outstanding. At the end of the Festival the “Top 5” Ovations are named – the best productions in the categories theatre, dance, comedy, music and a “wild card” category that spans all genres and each receive a cash prize courtesy of Standard Bank. Previous winners of these awards have been selected to tour internationally to Fringe Festivals in Perth and Amsterdam.
Growth and Development
The Festival has shown phenomenal growth since its inception. In 1974 there were 64 events on the Main Programme. (Events refer to productions, exhibitions, workshops, lectures, tours and so forth. A drama or dance production is counted as a single event irrespective of how many times it may be performed.) The Fringe started in 1979 with 10 events. Now the Festival comprises more than 350 events with over 1 200 performances.
The 2011 Festival reported attendance of over 200 000.
The Transnet Village Green craft fair was introduced in 1989 with approximately 90 stalls. Now it attracts close to 1 000 stallholders. The fair offers visitors the chance to buy an array of goods, from pure wool sweaters to handcrafted beadwork, and there are stalls offering a various exotic foods. In addition, there are Craft Villages at Fiddlers Green and on the Church Square.
As a trendsetter for South African festivals, the National Arts Festival claims to be a socially responsible festival. However this has been contested.
The Hands On! Masks Off! programme focuses on strengthening the entrepreneurial skills of the arts community by bringing together arts entrepreneurs to share skills and knowledge with a new generation of arts managers.
In 2010 the Remix Laboratory saw a 120 community-based artists from around the country participate in a residency programme during the Festival. The scholars attended workshops, seminars, performances and visits to galleries while being mentored in arts practice and arts appreciation.
The Art Factory teaches local marginalised and vulnerable youth performance skills such as juggling and acrobatics and combines this with a strategic focus on building the life skills and confidence of the youth. The Art Factory functions as a year round project in Grahamstown.
As part of the ArtsReach Programme the National Arts Festival takes the arts to hospitals, clinics, old age homes and rural areas. A number of artists on the Fringe volunteer their performances for the ArtsReach programme during the Festival.
The Arts Encounter Project distributes a number of tickets to indigent individuals to enable them to enjoy productions from the Festival’s Main and Fringe programmes.
The Festival publishes an annual booking kit/programme which includes information on the programme, where to stay and how to get to Grahamstown.
In 1989 a computerised booking system was introduced and in 1997, for the first time in the history of South African theatre, the National Arts Festival introduced Internet bookings. Through the Festival website, which had been in operation since 1994, it became possible for people from remote areas, and especially foreign visitors, to make bookings for the Festival, without leaving their homes.
The National Arts Festival has a small permanent staff comprising six full-time staff members. Former radio presenter and sponsorship manager Tony Lankester was appointed CEO in December 2007, and shortly thereafter he named Ismail Mahomed as the Festival Director to oversee the curation of the Festival's artistic content. During the Festival the staff grows to about 400, including technical staff, largely drawn from the Grahamstown community.
The National Arts Festival is a member of the World Fringe Alliance, a grouping of eight Fringe Festivals from different countries. It is also a member of the African Festival Network (AFRIFESTNET). CEO Tony Lankester is Chairman and Treasurer of the two organisations respectively. The Festival embarks on numerous partnerships with foreign embassies and presenting institutions, staging several high profile international works each year.
- "Grahamstown Festival - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-11-01.
- A Festival of Resistance, Mahala, Ben Fogel 13 July 2012
- A Festival of Resistance, Mahala, Ben Fogel 13 July 2012