/ 18 June 2024

The stage is set for a cracker of a National Arts Festival 

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Sizzling show: One of the highlights of the upcoming National Arts Festival will be performances by Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse. Photo: Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Turning a milestone 50 years old this year, the National Arts Festival (NAF) remains a cornerstone of South Africa’s cultural calendar and this year’s edition promises to be one of the most dynamic and inclusive yet.

Held annually in Makhanda, in the Eastern Cape, the festival is a melting pot of artistic expression, drawing participants and spectators from across the globe. Here’s an overview of what to expect from this year’s festival, running from

20 to 30 June. There will be about 200 shows on at the event from South Africa and across the world.  

Expect works in theatre, dance, music and visual arts from acclaimed South African and international artists.  

Performances by the Vuyani Dance Theatre and concerts featuring Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse, Mandisi Dyantyis and the South African National Jazz Orchestra are among the highlights. The orchestra will be conducted by jazz maestro McCoy Mrubata.

The six Standard Bank Young Artist Award winners will be among those setting the stage throughout the festival. They are artists under the age of 35 across various artistic disciplines. 

Since their inception, the awards have honoured more than 170 directors, actors, artists, playwrights, musicians, choreographers and dancers, highlighting their significant contributions to the arts sector.

Last year’s winners were Darren English (jazz), Zoë Modiga (music), Stephané Conradie (visual arts), Lorin Sookool (dance), Kgomotso “Momo” Matsunyane (theatre) [see story above] and Angel Ho (performance art).

The fringe festival will run parallel to the main programme. It offers a platform for emerging artists to present their work, which this year consists of a vibrant mix of experimental and avant-garde performances that push the boundaries of conventional art forms.

The visual arts exhibition will be hosted at the Monument Gallery and other venues around the city. This year’s exhibition includes installations, sculptures and digital art from both established and up-and-coming artists.

Highlights include Christine Dixie’s exhibition titled The Abyssal Zone and In Conversation, which consists of our decades of artworks by current and former staff of the Rhodes University fine art department. It draws from the extensive collection of artworks produced by full-time and contract teaching staff of the department over the past 40 years.  

The National Arts Festival 2024 is set to be an extraordinary celebration of arts and culture, fostering creativity, dialogue and community engagement.