It’s almost that time again: time for the National Arts Festival. It’s the two weeks of the year when thousands of people swarm upon sleepy Grahamstown, home to nothing but one of Africa’s leading universities, a few good pubs and plenty of creative spirit. Although small, it seems only natural to host the festival in this student town. Rhodes University does have the best Humanities Faculty in the country, after all.
What began as a small celebration of the arts almost 40 years ago, has turned into a phenomenal festival that people travel to from all over the country. It’s the highlight of everyone’s cultural events calendar, and it is of a magnitude that cannot be conveyed through words alone. All, yes all, of South Africa’s leading artists, musicians, actors, mimes and sculptors are always in attendance at what has become lovingly referred to as “Fest.”
If you’re thinking of going to Fest this year (and we recommend that you do), have a look at some of the highlights promised by the event’s organisers. We’re sure this will whet your appetite for some cultural experiences that you are sure to remember for years to come.
- The National Arts Festival runs from 3 to 13 July this year, and is billed as “10 days of amazing.” No matter when you go, you will, without a doubt, have the best of times. While you’re in the beautiful Eastern Cape, why not go and experience what the rest of the province has to offer? Just a short drive away, you will find the two things that the Eastern Cape is famed for having in abundance â€“ elephants and pineapples. For a full safari experience, we suggest spending sometime at the Addo Elephant Park. Accommodation with Woodall Addo Country House comes highly recommended, as they believe inÂ responsible tourismÂ without sacrificing the enjoyment and convenience of their guests.
- Be sure to have a look at the Festival’s music line-up during your time in Grahamstown. South Africa’s most favourite, well-loved musicians have all signed on to play a few sets at some of the town’s best venues. Festival goers have been promised the likes of Lira, Arno Carstens, Francios van Coke, Jimmy Dludlu, Albert Frost and the incomparable and internationally adored, Hugh Masakela.
- Experience South Africa’s best up-and-coming young talents. Winners of the 2014 (and some previous years’ recipients) Standard Bank Young Artist Awards will all be performing in their respective areas. From dance to visual art, the likes of Nicola Elliott, Hasan and Husain Essop and Njabulo Madlala will show festival attendees exactly why they are so deserving of their prestigious awards.
- The Village Green, a meeting place for young and old, is a National Arts Festival staple. Every year, Rhodes University’s field becomes home to an arts, crafts, food and drinks mecca. At the Village Green, you can find everything that you need and more. It’s basically a flea market that stocks only the highest quality goods. Whether you’re looking for a greasy breakfast after a big night out, a hand-sewn kikoi, a cold beer in the winter sun or a fantastic piece of art for your collection, you are sure to find it at the Village Green.
- All in all, the National Arts Festival is well-organised, well-run and well-loved. With sponsors that include pay-channel M-net, the Department of Arts and Culture, Standard Bank, the National Lottery, leading national newspaper City Press and the Province of the Eastern Cape, this comes as no surprise. Being submerged in all of the talent and culture that the National Arts Festival brings is one of the best experiences one could ever have. While the schedule is meticulously planned, there are also a number of free, pop-up shows that could happen anywhere and at any time â€“ it’s all part of Fest’s magic.
This is truly an experience not to be missed. For the past 39 years, the National Arts Festival has proven to be one of the finest, most diverse, most exciting in the world â€“ and 2014’s line-up is sure to prove to be no different. Learn more about this great city through a tour of the Eastern Cape.