Virtual National Arts Festival – Realising A New Reality

“Everything has changed since we last wrote to you – the Coronavirus pandemic, which has the world in lockdown, has meant we’ve had to make some difficult decisions. Cancelling was not an option – we really wanted to find a way to make the Festival happen – for the artists, for our stakeholders, and for you, our audience.”

“So, in a giant leap of faith, we’re doing something we’ve never done before. With the help and support of our sponsors, artists, and audience, the 46th National Arts Festival will be a virtual festival. We’re taking the Festival online, with digital content that will inspire, entertain and distract you – as well as provoke thought and discussion around some of the issues we’re all grappling with.”

Monica Newton, NAF CEO

How we’ll be doing it differently this year

The decision to take the Festival online is a bold response to the restrictions posed by the Coronavirus pandemic. It’s a challenging time for ‘business unusual’, and we know that if anyone is up to an agile, creative response, it’s South Africa’s artistic community.

Held from 25 June to 5 July, the portal to the experience will be the National Arts Festival website. Here, audiences will be able to experience streamed, live performances, pre-recorded concerts, virtual, immersive exhibitions, poetry and stage readings, interactive workshops and webinars. While some content will be behind a paywall, there’ll also be free content as the National Arts Festival is committed to reaching as many people as possible.

Read more

Your chance to Talk to the Team

This concept of a virtual festival format has everyone asking questions – including us. We have a list of FAQs on our website that we hope answer some of the more obvious questions – and we’ll keep adding to this as we go along. We’re also holding a ‘Talk to the Team’ session, where both artists and audiences will be able to ask the people at NAF questions directly. So please make note of the date – Tuesday 21 April. We’ll let you know the time and format of this panel event closer to the time. The session will also be available to view later or download on the NAF website.

If you’d like to be an active participant, please book your space, or send us your questions in advance by emailing us on

Rucera Seethal, agility in a time of change

‘Since we announced the Virtual NAF, we immediately went into brainstorming and researching possible ways to host or present the Festival, while at the same time working out what kinds of content we could be working with, and how to enable artists to respond to this change, and also reconfiguring internal working groups, and figuring out ways of distance working. How we are all still standing is a small miracle. I’m very pleased to see that a big organisation such as the National Arts Festival can be flexible and responsive – this is completely necessary in an invariably volatile future.’

Rucera Seethal, the Artistic Director of the National Arts Festival, talks about building a programme for uncertain times. Read the Q&A here

Celebrating the City That Sings

BBC’s Radio 4 and TBI Media have produced a beautiful documentary about Masicule, the annual event in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) that was created by the National Arts Festival to celebrate voice – and the city itself.

‘Local vocalist Nombasa Maqoko brings you the story of Masicule 2020, a chance to hear some of its wonderful music and to discover how singing creates a brief flicker of light in Makhanda’s current darkness.’

Listen to it here

By Andrew Germishuys

Founder of SAMDB, Andrew has worked full time in the film industry since the early 2000's. He has trained as an actor, completing his LAMDA Gold Medal, and attending many courses in Cape Town acting studios, with masterclasses with some of the international industries top directors, producers and filmmakers.

Working as an actor and armourer in the film and television industry have given Andrew a great balance of skills across the board when it comes to the entertainment industry.

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