No plans to cancel festival

2013-06-29 00:00

THERE are no plans to cancel the National Arts Festival in Grahams­town — even if former president Nelson Mandela dies at the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria.

Tony Lankester, the chief executive officer of the 11-day arts extravaganza, said: “The festival will respond appropriately as and when it becomes relevant to do so. There are no plans to cancel the festival, although some adjustments to the programme may be necessary.

“Until then, our thoughts are with the Mandela family.”

His comments came just hours after the performance of Madonna of Excelsior, which opens with Mandela’s famous speech, made during the Rivonia Trial in 1964. In that speech Mandela said: “… I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

The festival is full of reminders of what Mandela and others fought for. These can be found in productions like Hinterland, which imagines a meeting between Cecil John Rhodes and Sol Plaatje, one of the founding fathers of the ANC; Biko’s Quest, in which Steve Biko’s life and death are explored; The Island, which tells the story of two prisoners on Robben Island; and Cadre, a play about a young South African man struggling to navigate his way through the politics of apartheid.

On the festival’s Thinkfest programme, Sarah Nuttall, director of the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, is set to deliver a talk, titled Mandela’s Mortality, which considers Madiba’s attitude towards death during the course of his life.

For more information on the festival, log on to

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