The (virtual) National Arts Festival kicks off tomorrow. Here's what you need to know.

Thandiswa Mazwai is one of many artists who'll be participating in this years virtual National Arts Festival (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Thandiswa Mazwai is one of many artists who'll be participating in this years virtual National Arts Festival (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

The Virtual National Arts Festival, which kicks off its programme of 25 June promises to be an 11-day curated programme of online creativity – pre-recorded and live events, short films, virtual art exhibitions, jam sessions, interactive events, webinars and more – that spans the South African and international arts scene.

Running completely virtual for the first time in the festival's 46 year history, the festival will be presenting work that speaks to these unique times, and will feature the results of many new collaborations, experimental forms and new ways to engage with the arts and audiences. 

“The Virtual National Arts Festival won’t replace the live Festival experience and we will return to our home in Makhanda as soon as we are safely able to,” said CEO Monica Newton. “But this year of unexpected challenges has also brought us an extraordinary opportunity to experiment with new forms.

“We are also able to bring the National Arts Festival to audiences at home and abroad who may not otherwise have been able to attend the live experience. We hope that bringing the Festival to the convenience of people’s screens will help lift our spirits during these times and present the artistic works that inspire, challenge and reveal new perspectives.”

So how will this work?

The Virtual National Arts Festival (vNAF) can be viewed through the portal of the newly redesigned website, with a daily programme of shows presented. A full festival pass allows access to the entire curated programme, daily passes and passes to specific festival elements such as the Standard Bank Jazz Festivals will be sold to local and international audiences via the website. vFringe events are not included in the Pass bundles

vNAF Festival Passes
  • A Festival Pass for R600 will unlock all the curated programme events as they are released each day of the Festival.
  • A Day Pass at R80 will unlock all the curated events on a particular day – you can select as many days as you wish.
  • A Jazz Pass ,at the discounted rate of R500, will give you access to all the Standard Bank Jazz Festival events as they become available. You can also buy tickets for individual events from R35 per event.


The Fringe programme of the National Arts Festival has historically been populated by artists and organisations who take on the financial risk of funding their own productions at the National Arts Festival. The open-access model of accepting any work by brave and passionate creatives is one that is modelled on the massive 70-year-old Edinburgh Fringe, which started because artists, who weren’t selected for the main stages, broke away and staged their work on the "fringes" of the Festival. 

vFringe Tickets
  • vFringe events are available via pay-per-view, at R35 per show.

Standard Bank Jazz Festival

2020's Standard Bank Jazz festival sees performances by Thandiswa Mazwai, Mete Erker & Jeroen Van Vliet, Mi Casa, an album launch by Lana Crowster, Michael Bester, Ami Faku, Linda Sikhakhane, Vuma Levin, Swing City, Ramon Alexander, Gloria Bosman, Jacob Collier, Sakhile Simani, Spha Mdlalose and Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year for Jazz, Sisonke Xhanti.

Standard Bank Jazz Festival
  • Individual shows are priced at R45 per show.
  • A jazz festival pass will available at the discounted price of R500 for the duration of the festival.


The Creativate Digital Arts Festival, presented by Standard Bank, is back for its third year and continues to provide a digital playground for adventurous artists and curious audiences at the National Arts Festival. This year, with the lines blurring between the normal festival runnings, Creativate forms a captivating thread through the Virtual National Arts programme with a collection of online interactive digital art workshops, new-media exhibitions and innovative performances pushing the boundaries of what we understand about “art”. With 42 pieces including 16 workshops and 15 world premieres on the programme, Creativate, this year, is about interaction, collaboration and breaking down barriers.

Songs Are Like The Grass: Madosini in Concert

The National Arts Festival’s 2020 Featured Artist, musician Madosini Mpahleni, will be honoured through a documentary in an 11-part series across each day of the Festival. This series will feature a new song each day of the Festival, with a particular set of musicians performing and reflecting on the music. An account by Madosini on the meaning of the song and its inspiration will be included, as well as other contextual or archival video and photographic material. The narrative starts with Madosini's earliest experience, learning music from her mother, and we will be able to follow her journey to the city and, ultimately, around the world where she has collaborated with musicians across genres and styles.

 As Madosini is in the high risk category for Covid-19, no work could be made directly with her so this series forms an important archive of her unique form of music as well as of the life and career of its leading proponent. 

National treasure Madosini is the National Arts Fe
National treasure Madosini is the National Arts Festival's featured artist for 2020. (Photo: Simphiwe Nkwali/ Gallo Images)

*For more information, head to the National Arts Festival Website.

*Arts24 has partnered with the NAF to bring you exciting content for the 11 day duration of the festival.