CityLife Arts

National Arts Festival will be both physical and online

Artists can now apply to participate in next year’s festival that will take place in Makhanda and online.

By Edward Tsumele

The annual arts feast the National Arts Festival is not only going ahead next year, but will also take place in its usual home in Makhanda in its traditional physical format, in addition to an online version, the oragnisers announced yesterday.

This year, due to Covid-19, the festival went digital, and interestingly, like other arts events, such as art fairs and fine art auctions globally, forced to migrate to digital platforms in order to connect with audiences, the festival did fairly well, attracting 80 000 people from around the world.

However the next year’s league of the festival will adopt a hybrid model, to deliver the arts to the country and the world during this new normal, as a result of the advent of the arrival of the novel coronavirus, which has proved to be disruptive socially and economically, forcing society throughout the world to rethink the way they carry out their business and social activities.

Artists can now apply to participate at the festival next year, and are therefore invited to submit Expressions of Interest applications for the 2021 festival. Expeted to take place in July, 2021.

“It’s obviously difficult to predict what will happen next year, but we will be going ahead with a 2021 Festival and will adapt our formula if need be,” says Artistic Director, Rucera Seethal.
The 2020 National Arts Festival went entirely virtual as the lockdown made it impossible to host a live event in June and July 2020. The Virtual National Arts Festival attracted over 80 000 visitors online during its month-long run.

The Festival team envisages a hybrid Festival for 2021 with an online and live component. Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) continues to be the home of the Festival but the live event is likely to be smaller, more compact and focused, in keeping with the L1 lockdown provisions. These plans will of course depend on the prevailing COVID-19 regulations and protocols.

“We are designing a safe and inspiring experience for everyone involved – audiences and artists alike,” says Seethal, “and we think a smaller Festival is apt in these times.” 

Artists have been particularly hard-hit by lockdowns, and the arts are only just starting to emerge from months of inactivity in the live space. “As an arts festival, we are going to do everything we can to support artists, while also facilitating the presentation of new directions in the arts,” says Seethal. 
The NAF has posted the call for Expressions of Interest General for programmed work for the Festival. The call for the Fringe will go live on 25 January 2021 and those interested in participating in the Village Green will also be invited to apply in 2021. 

The new approach includes a simpler and shorter application form which the Festival hopes will make it easier for artists to apply. Artists can apply with a work in progress, an idea for a new work or a piece that has already been made or performed. The deadline for submitting Expressions of Interest General is midnight on 20th December 2020.
Artists wishing to find out more about submitting an Expression of Interest General can attend a webinar being hosted by the Festival on 30 November 2020 at 2pm. Registration for the webinar can be completed here/ on the Festival’s website For more details artists can also follow the social media channels @artsfestival (Twitter) and @NationalArtsFestival on Facebook and Instagram
To submit a National Arts Festival Expression of Interest General form, artists can visit  the Festival’s website

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