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PRESS: National Arts Festival's 2024 Programme is Open for Booking

Sascha Polkey


It's come a long way from the cream, embossed programme and cash box-office that launched the National Arts Festival in 1974, but the 2024 National Arts Festival programme has gone live at and is available for browsing online and conveniently and securely bookable from the couch! 

One thing that hasn't changed is that the Festival is still a space for freedom of expression; a yardstick for the South African arts and an interdisciplinary platform for diverse new work.


This year, the Festival turns 50, and the artistic community is looking back on where we have come from, reflecting on how we have grown and changed; and looking ahead to our future as an evolving country and its people. Through its unrelenting gaze and interpretation, South Africa's creative community has always provoked, inspired, discomforted, entertained and healed. This year is no different. 


From sweeping powerful works like the new Third World Bunfight's The Stranger, to Sibikwa Arts Centre's riveting revolutionary call 1789 and the return of Vuyani Dance's epic CION – A Requiem of Ravel's Bolero – the mood is bold. Collaborative work made possible by the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) and The Embassy of France to South Africa, Lesotho and Malawi sees African choreographers and scenographers working with South African community-based dance collectives, in a project called Third Space,to create new works that will be brought to the Festival.

The National Arts Festival's 50th anniversary takes place against the backdrop of South Africa marking 30 years of democracy. A Luta Continua: Reflecting on 30 Years of Democracy through the Constitutional Court Art Collection is an exhibition that explores the interconnectedness of art and justice, human rights and democracy, at this key moment in South Africa's history and future.

The 2023 Standard Bank Young Artists will lead the charge into the unknown with brand new works and boundaries redefined. This year's cohort are Lorin Sookool (Dance), Darren English (Jazz), Zoë Modiga (Music), Angel Ho (Performance Art), Kgomotso 'MoMo' Matsunyane (Theatre) and Stephané Conradie (Visual Art). 

Visual artists have harnessed the archive and memory to produce shows that speak to the National Arts Festival's history. In Mattering: 50 Years of The National Arts Festival, curators Raphaela Linders and Viwe Madindaworked with writer Robyn Perros to create an exhibition that lifts archival fragments from each of the Festival's five decades. 

The Fringe will once again bring the unexpected, the surreal and the undiscovered to light, with shows from all over the country – some for their debut, others are much-loved returning favourites. Returning artists include Sophie Joans, who went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2023 with her multi award-winning play, ÎLE (Gold Standard Bank Ovation Award 2022), and now brings her new solo show, AÏo; a blend of clowning, technology and theatre to Makhanda. 


The Eastern Cape's Sonwa Sakuba Institute will be supplying the family entertainment with Disney's Moana JR, while a host of comedians, including Yaseen Barnes, Khanyisa Bunu, Conrad Koch and Thato Mabelane will be back for the comedy fans. 30 Years of Democracy also forms an interesting frame for Mike van Graan'ssatirical work, My Fellow South Africans. Music and magic, always a cornerstone of the Fringe, includes Festival legend and Britain's Got Talentalumni Brendon Peel, his frequent stage partner Li Lau and another Festival favourite Stuart Lightbody.

As always, works on the Fringe come from around the country. Twisted Fates is a play from the North West Province Development Agency that explores the intricate dynamics of inseparable twin brothers. From KwaZulu-Natal comes Xola Mziwakhe's Zabalaza Theatre Festival best production nominee Azania; a poignant odyssey through hopes and heartbreak, while Bonolo, from Limpopo, tells the story of the complex relationship between a daughter and mother-in-law. Out of the Free State comes Velaphi Mthimkulu's Capable, about a young man with albinism who is wanted for muti, and from Gauteng comes Cantos of a Life in Exile, a captivating journey of self-discovery for a South African born in exile. The CPUT Performing Arts Society in the Western Cape will present Marysa Leukes in It Went Above Your Head. Multiple works from the Eastern Cape showcase the talent and diversity in the Festival's home province. This is just a small taste of the Fringe! 


The Village Green market will be a bustling centre at the Festival in between shows, and venues across the town are gearing up to serve winter-warming food and live music. Watch this space to hear more about the Makhanda National Jazz programme, Third Space, visual art exhibitions and Eastern Cape Showcase. 


Tickets remain exceptionally affordable, with prices ranging from R 30 – R 175, and can be found online now at


Visitors wishing to book accommodation and flights are urged to do so soon. The 2024 National Arts Festival takes place from 20–30 June 2024. 

Please click here to read more about the 2024 Curated Programme.


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