National Arts Festival commemorates 50 years

As the National Arts Festival commemorates 50 years, the curated program reflects on universal themes that emerged at the founding of the festival and all subsequent editions, and interrogates the urgency of various challenges specific to the here and now.

Sipho 'Hotstix' Mabuse returns to the National Arts Festival.  Image supplied

Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse returns to the National Arts Festival. Image supplied

What started as an exhibition of some 60 works in an effort to preserve English culture and the 1820s Settler heritage during the depths of apartheid has transformed into South Africa’s longest running and most diverse arts festival, showcasing works in a variety of languages ​​and genres that are attracting more and more audiences. diverse South African and international audience.

Selected through an application process and lengthy curatorial panel research, the National Arts Festival’s curated program is a creative litmus test of society and a reflection of the artist’s lens on South Africa and the world. The curated program for 2024 is a dialogue of ideas in a restless era in which the world order is changing, violence is escalating and uncertainty prevails on the edge of a post-truth world.

Artistic Director Rucera Seethal says: “It is an overwhelming task to encompass everything the festival could and has ever been in a landmark year like this, and belies the festival’s role in releasing new work and reshaping older work. So, in creating this programme, we have played with the combination of old and new and the emergence of ambitious ideas that will usher the festival into a new era of cross-border and international collaboration.”

Highlights from the curated program include the world premiere of Third World Bunfight’s The Stranger, Sibikwa Arts Centre’s groundbreaking new work 1789, a tribute to artists past Mandla Mbothwe and innovative new works from the Standard Bank Young Artists. .

The history of the festival is brought into the conversation through various visual arts exhibitions, and exciting new projects connecting artists and makers from Africa are taking the festival in a new direction for the future.

The National Arts Festival will take place in Makhanda from June 20-30, 2024.

For more information, visit