As we get close to wrapping up the annual National Arts Festival after ’11 days of amazing’ and as we get ready to leave the City of Saints, I reflect back on what has been more than just a theatre experience. From the rainy mornings to the chilly winter nights, I can safely say all of it was worth it. It’s the warmth of the people, the creativity behind the event, the innovative ideas, and so much more.
This is an event that contributes R350 million to the economy of the province, it’s no wonder it’s the continent’s biggest cultural festival. With this in mind, I was curious to find out how Grahamstown citizens felt about playing host to such an important event. As you walk through the streets of the small town, you are guaranteed to find young children playing statues in almost every corner- you get to see them move/dance with every cent that you throw in. I was fortunate enough to catch one of them before they started their “work”, Athenkosi Vulindlu is only 19 and unemployed, “The festival is my only chance to make enough money to be able to support my family,” he explains to Nunnovation journalist Sisathi Nomatye. For Thembinkosi Humphrey, it’s an opportunity to showcase his shoe business to a broader market. “Grahamstown is very small, and most people don’t support our business. I want to grow my business but don’t have the means.” Thembinkosi makes his own shoes and handbags- the festival talented entrepreneur’s only shot to getting recognition and hopefully gaining support for his small business.
For the food-lovers, it was thrill seeing an actual cooking show on stage “Don’t Burn Your Sausage” featuring the oh-so-funny comedian and celebrity MasterChef SA winner Chris Forrest with Masterchef judge Pete Goffe-Wood. It’s a mouth-watering food and comedy affair all in one. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?
Imagine a village filled with all types of entertainment- from different kinds of food to beautiful African wear to traditional crafts to a virtual world and a play area for kids. As if that’s not enough, you’re entertained with free theatre shows- just to make sure you don’t break your bank at a place where you easily spend. You’ll find all this in one at Village Green proudly sponsored by Transnet.
Hosting shows for the first time in Africa was the Government of Flanders and the Flemish-Dutch House deBuren giving us a taste of outside talent on stage. They presented us with a mini-flemish season that incorporated two plays including “The Dog Days”. A play that communicates a message to the audience through dance, the difference between art and entertainment.
There you have it- The National Arts Festival 2015! For the locals, it’s an empowering initiative that promotes entrepreneurship and innovation. For visitors, it’s a chance to hop into Africa’s art scene. Either way, it’s been amazing!