April 3, 2020

The National Arts Festival Will Be Virtual, this Year

The National Arts Festival will move into the digital realm and for the first time ever go fully virtual.

The 2020 edition of one of Africa’s largest feasts of visual and performed artswill take place online on the festival’s website and via social media channels, the event’s head of affairs has decreed.

Some of the audience at the 2017 edition of the Festival…Photo by Jan Potgieter

“The festival has always played the role of a platform for the arts, a showcase for people to gather around, presenting multidisciplinary work on a variety of platforms”, the Chief Executive observes.

 “So this remains unchanged, we will still be the platform around which people will gather virtually and this time the portal into this showcase will be through our website.


“The work will be housed in different digital places and spaces but we will be gathering it together into one easy to navigate space – with our website as the anchor. While we are still working with the arts community on what can be presented, we are likely to have work in a variety of formats and on a variety of platforms including social media platforms such as Instagram for exhibitions and social gatherings and YouTube and our website for streamed content and pre-recorded performances..”

Monica Newton was speaking to Ruth Cooper, production manager at Bizcommunty, as well as the editor of the lifestyle section.

The South African National Arts Festival traces its origins to 1974, when the 1820 Settlers National Monument was officially opened. Conceived as a living memorial to the 1820 British settlers, and built on a hillside overlooking Makhanda, the Monument building housed the inaugural festival that same year. It has effectively remained the heart of the Festival since then. Following a fire in 1994, it was rebuilt and officially re-dedicated by Nelson Mandela in May 1996

Ms. Newton was named the CEO of this year’s Festival last December. She has wide experience in the arts and culture sector, having worked with national, provincial and local government and related government agencies since 1997, a press statement said. “She has been part of creative industry strategy, development and research processes across South Africa, and has worked in the field of cultural development and the creative industries for most of her career”.

“Our featured artist, Madosini, will be part of the festival though a documentary about her life and work”, Ms. Newton explains. (Every year, the festival pays tribute to an artist who has made a significant mark on the country’s arts landscape…).

MadosiniLatoziis a South African musician, known for playing traditional instruments such as the uhadi and mhrubhemusical bows, and theisitolotolo. She performs under the name Madosini and is regarded as a “national treasure” in her field.She speaks only isiXhosa and is unable to read or write.

Monica Newton: The COVID crisis is an opportunity to innovate new ways of participating at the Festival

“We will have live and pre-recorded content such as jazz performances, poetry readings, theatre pieces and comedy shows”, Ms Newton tells Cooper. “The festival will also host a series of ‘critical thinking’ platforms such as podcasts, workshops and webinars.

Ruth Cooper of bizcommunity spoke with Monica Newton

“We are looking at ways to present live performance that will not just be a pre-recorded screening of the performance but also exploring stage readings, 360° camera work to create immersive performances and virtual exhibition tours by artists and curators just to name a few. We have an ‘ideas’ form available on our website for artists, creatives and entrepreneurs to get in touch with us and we have been introduced to some really innovative and interesting perspectives!”

Newton explains that the event “will have a mixture of free and ticketed events. Payment gates will be put up on some of the content but there will be lots of free elements just as there is at our live festival”.



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