With the pandemic ongoing, National Arts Festival chooses to evolve

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Jeremy Nedd & Impilo Mapantsula will present a dance piece titled The Ecstatic as a part of Standard Bank Presents in Johannesburg. (Supplied)
Jeremy Nedd & Impilo Mapantsula will present a dance piece titled The Ecstatic as a part of Standard Bank Presents in Johannesburg. (Supplied)
  • In 2021, the National Arts Festival's evolution sees shows being staged in more South African cities. 
  • Titled Standard Bank Presents, the multi-regional festival will have events in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Gqeberha and Durban.
  • It includes new theatre releases, performances by Standard Bank Young Artists and parts of the annual Standard Bank Jazz Festival. 


Last year, for the first time ever, the annual National Arts Festival had to respond to lockdown regulations by going online. With the pandemic still ongoing, the National Arts Festival predicted that an ongoing pandemic would hinder the annual art pilgrimage to Makhanda. 

As a result, the festival has evolved into three major offerings: a livestream offering, Makhanda Live, and Standard Bank Presents.

So while a smaller in-person festival will still take place in Makhanda, support from Standard Bank sees the festival bringing select shows to patrons in other cities around South Africa. 

“The National Arts Festival is an experience like no other, there is nothing quite like spending your entire day inside the minds of artists. You feel challenged, invigorated and inspired. We wanted to bring that experience to our audiences in cities,” explains National Arts Festival CEO, Monica Newton.

From 17 June to 4 July 2021, residents of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Gqeberha and Durban can expect the Stand Bank Presents programme. The select shows include new theatre releases, performances by the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artists as well as the parts of the annual Standard Bank Jazz Festival. 

"It truly is a privilege to be part of the evolution of the NAF, finding new ways to deliver the Festival experience and creating a showcase for talent beyond its traditional home in Makhanda,” says Desiree Pooe, Head of Sponsorship & Events at Standard Bank.

For Standard Bank Presents to be possible, the festival partnered with venues in the four cities. In Cape Town shows will take place at Gallery 44 on Long Street. Durban audiences will see shows at the Seabrooke’s Theatre at Durban High School. Performances in Gqeberha will be staged at the Masifunde Learner Academy in Walmer. Johannesburg’s offerings will be divided among the Market Theatre complex, AFDA’s Red Roof Theatre and the Wits Theatre. 

All shows will be staged under strict Covid-19 protocols with socially distanced seating, mandatory wearing of maks and a vigorous sanitising routine before and after shows. 

Along Standard Bank Presents, the Very Big Comedy Show will, this year, simultaneously take place in three cities. Both live and online audiences will have access to a line-up boasting 12 comedians. This will all take place on 10 July 2021. 

Standard Bank Presents takes place from today, 17 June to 10 July 2021. For more information visit nationalartsfestival.co.za

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