You can attend KKNK Festival from today without taking your foot outside your home

By Edward Tsumele

I have not been to the rural town of Oudtshoorn; for the annual KKNK Festival, something I have always wished I had done, but each time that the ABSA sponsored Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK) takes place, I have somehow found myself missing from the action.

The annual arts festival has historically taken place in the Klein Karoo town of Oudtshoorn; and you know what that does to especially city weary people. It energises them and allows them to have a fresh perspective and introspection about their lives, away from the bustle and hustle of the busy daily city life.

Well, yesterday I was fortunate to have eventually manage to go there to attend the launch of this year’s festival in  the famous town of Oudtshoorn. Sort  of.

I enjoyed its smart, clean streets that are well manicured, its cottage-like buildings, giving one an experience that you are in a rural area in South Africa. Its atmosphere is that of a rural life colliding with an intrusive urban environment. There is even an ABSA Bank branch and lovely looking coffee shop, the one that is inviting for you to pop in and have a warm cup of coffee during this rather coldish week.

Well, If this description does not reflect the old good Oudtshoorn;to you, I am sorry for those that have been there in person in the past, for I only went there virtually yesterday to attend the launch of this festival.

But you regular KKNK Festival goer, you will not be able to go back there to attend your favourite festival  in person as it has gone virtual this year due to the restrictions relating to the Covid-10 pandemic. However on a positive note, from today, September 1, 2021, till end of November, 2021, you can enjoy all the productions that the festival has been known for over the years, from anywhere in the world, be it at home, while travelling or in a coffee shop. All you need is your gadget in the form of your phone, tablet or your laptop.

ABSA and the festival organisers have recreated this festival  complete  with its laid back town of Oudtshoorn;with all the landmarks that you may know, giving you the feel that you are there in the physical. I certainly felt I was there physically yesterday at the launch as we were taken through the town’s smart streets, travelled to the ABSA branch and a coffee shop, while I was actually seated at home.

This is the magic of the new technologies that allow us to travel far and enjoy some of the most hilarious experiences that we would not be able to access, If we needed to go there physically. And so in as much as we all love to see theatrical productions, comedy shows and music performances in the physical, honestly speaking, nothing beats that experience, but because of the situation of Covid-19, we cannot do that. But this is where the new technologies that allows us to travel far without actually taking a foot outside our homes, come in. This is just another alternative way of enjoying what we used to enjoy before Covid-19 struck.

With a creative tech people, a new and exciting, alternative world of enjoying festivals can still be created, and this looks like something that we will have to get used to for a  while, while the Covid-situation is being monitored.

“I personally would love to travel to the festival, like I have always done, to socialise with other people during the festival. But as to when that will happen I cannot say, but my hope is that 2022, will make it possible for people to do so, especially with more people getting vaccinated, and therefore creating an opportunity for people to attend festivals in person,” said ABSA senior curator Paul Bayliss while fielding questions from the media yesterday at the virtual launch event of KKNK Festival..

Bayliss also said that through the virtual festival, they expected more people attend the festival this year than in the past.

“With the virtual world being more accessible to more people, whether they are in the country or elsewhere, we hope that we will have more people attending this year than before. We also hope that the festival will reach people overseas, who may in the future consider coming to attend the festival in person If and when the situation allows that,” he said.

The festival, which was temporarily put on hold last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, will see Absa celebrating 16 years as sponsor.

 This year’s event will see Absa bringing innovations that will extend the reach of the festival beyond its usual territories, in the process introducing new audiences to the festival. The festival is held virtually and will be spread over three months, until November 2021.

Absa Senior Specialist Art Curator, Dr Paul Bayliss, said that the global COVID-19 pandemic has radically impacted many industries, and the arts industryis no exception. The pandemic has allowed Absa to advance its digital art presence to make visual arts more accessible to diverse audiences.

 “As a Group, we saw an opportunity to launch the Absa Art Hotspot, where we could host our art exhibitions, masterclasses and art auctions virtually as well as migrate certain elements of our art-related sponsorships and partnerships to online platforms. We are leading the charge in being digitally progressive in the visual arts,” he said.

 “With our KKNK partners, we agreed to extend the Absa Art Hotspot to include the festival. Our virtual platform – the Virtual Absa Kuierkamer – mimics aspects of the host town of Oudtshoorn and will see us rolling out numerous online activities where visitors will be given access to a variety of multimedia content.

Our events will be scattered around the town and art lovers will be able to explore various landmarks and buildings, just as they would have done during the live festival. The platform boasts a host of unique interactive features, including a virtual art gallery, sculpture installation and even a digital guestbook. All of this functionality is hosted by a web-based application, allowing for a seamless desktop and mobile experience,” Bayliss added.

 The KKNK virtual gallery, also supported by Absa, opened earlier in the year with an exhibition titled  Emotion. Hosted by the Absa Gallery, and curated by Dr Bayliss, the exhibition features bespoke artworks designed for the digital platform by previous Absa L’Atelier entrants.

One of the virtual experiences that will be hosted on the Virtual Absa Kuierkamer is a series of art documentaries titled Beyond the Canvas . The documentaries will focus on themes that have an impact on the South African visual arts landscape. The themes range from technology, social media, tourism and graffiti, to recycling and food in relation to the visual arts and will include both local and international guests sharing their thoughts and experiences.

 “As a financial institution, we agree that the growth that we want to achieve is inextricably linked to our firm commitment to be an active force for good in the communities in which we operate. The arts afford us the opportunity to play a shaping role in society by supporting fledgling as well as more established artists, through honing their skills, and stimulating the economy at large. We will use this year’s art documentaries and business talks to authentically speak about some of the more pertinent issues affecting not only the arts, but also the communities that we serve,” he says.

 In addition, a series of six Business Talks will be hosted by Absa’s Retail and Business Banking division (RBB) over the three-month period and will also see numerous guests invited to partake in conversations to find solutions to some of the country’s pressing questions.

“Absa Relationship Banking is proud to be collaborating with the KKNK virtual festival by sharing relevant insights and valuable information pertaining to some of the business sectors on which we focus. Alongside industry specialists and business partners, we will be unpacking the sector landscape and its growth prospects during this disruptive time in our history. We will hear from Justin Schmidt on Renewable Energy and Manufacturing,James Noble will shed some light on the world of Franchising, while Abrie Rautenbach will look at what’s trending in Agribusiness. Fiks Dlamini will focus on opportunities in the Public Sector landscape and Kgalaletso Tlhoaele will home in on the importance of Enterprise Development, all of which contribute to the sustainability of our country at large,” said Bayliss.

 Another content-led initiative that will be driven by the bank during this period is the Coffee Table Talks with award-winning presenter, Hannes van Wyk, popularly known as theKoffietafelgesprekke. The talks will cover topics such as the impact of COVID-19 on the arts and entertainment industries, as well as look at what the future may hold for the entertainment and arts industry.

The public will be able to access the talks once the Virtual Absa Kuierkamer goes live on 1 September 2021.

 Activities in the Virtual Absa Kuierkamer will run from September until the end of November

 Some of the “Beyond the Canvas” topics are:

.Social Media and Art – Guests: Lebo Lion, Banele Khoza and Enock Mlangen

.Technology and Art – Guests: Ann Roberts and Naitiemu Nyanjo

.Graffiti and Art – Guests:Falko One, Cale Waddacor and Marius Jansen van Vuuren

.Recycling and Art – Guests:Mbongeni Buthelezi, Phumudzo Muthanyi and Mbali Mokgosi

.We will also be looking at Food and Art as well as Tourism and Art. 

.Hannes van Wyk Koffietafelgesprekke topics include:

.The effect/impact of COVID-19 on the arts/entertainment industry.

.The future of the arts/theatre/entertainment industry. Change must come, but how?

.Entertainers that found alternative ways to earn a living.

.One-man/One-woman shows – is that the future of the entertainment industry?

.Television/Soaps vs theatre shows.

.Education: Do we follow a different approach regarding education in drama/arts? How do we empower artists/actors to think creatively and to be more creative in an ever-changing environment?

Highlights of the Business Talks include:

.Renewable energy and the importance of solar solutions

Business message from: Stonie Steenkamp, Managing Executive for Central Region at Absa Retail and Business Banking


Client: Percy Ying, CEO of Nesa Capital

From Absa: Justin Schmidt, Head of New Sector Development in Retail and Business Banking


Business Message from: Ronnie Mbatsane, Managing Executive for Gauteng and Limpopo at Absa Retail and Business Banking


Client: Pertunia Sibanyoni, Chairperson of FASA for 2021/2022

From Absa: James Noble, Head of Wholesale, Retail and Franchise at Absa Business Banking

How to Access the festival.

  • To view and participate in this year’s KKNK, click here.  
  • To visit the Virtual Absa Kuierkamer, click here and follow the quick registration process for access.
  • Click here for an overview and virtual walk-through of the unique Virtual Absa Kuierkamer platform.
  • To visit the Absa KKNK Virtual Art Gallery, click here.   
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