The National Arts Festival goes completely digital as Covid-19 continues to restrict arts industry

Sirqus Alphonse at the 2019 National Arts Festival (Photo: Mark Wessel)
Sirqus Alphonse at the 2019 National Arts Festival (Photo: Mark Wessel)


The National Arts Festival 2020 is going completely digital amid on-going Covid-19 travel and event restrictions.  

The 2020 National Arts Festival will go down in our history as the first-ever virtual edition.

As many festivals and visual media production schedules have been postponed due to the growing number of reported coronavirus cases, South African actor Rob van Vuuren has expressed anxiety about his stream of income.

On Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster, prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people as well as implementing domestic and international travel restrictions. 

Based on the ban on major events, and travel recommendations with regard to travel and the use of public transport, the annual arts festival was unable to proceed in a traditional manner. 

But by going virtual the festival can continue to support artists and the arts in 2020, by presenting work within a digital space.

"We've decided to do something bold and something we have never done before. From 25 June to 5 July 2020, the National Arts Festival will be going completely virtual for the full 11 days of amazing," said a statement released by The National Arts Festival on Tuesday.

The statement continues: "This way we can share some magic and hope with those who may still be confined to their homes. An opportunity to connect when we are being asked to distance ourselves from one another."   

"Artists depend on festivals like ours to generate an income through selling tickets, getting their work seen and talked about locally and internationally, and networking with their peers. Rather than cancel, we aim to create a new opportunity for artists and audiences alike to celebrate the arts, and to create an accessible platform for artists to share their work." 

As we face the possibility of a large number of people soon being cut off from each other, The National Arts Festival labels their decision as "absolutely responsible" in combatting the spread of Covid-19, while still connecting people.

Regarding economic stability, the statement says: "We know how much income our festivals contribute to the infrastructure and economy of Makhanda. We remain committed to the city and will continue to play our role as good corporate citizens."

The Festival will communicate the way forward in the coming weeks and will engage directly with sponsors, donors, artists and traders registered to participate in the 202 festival.   

Scifest Africa will be postponed and take place from 9 to 15 September 2020. The Eastern Cape Schools Festival will similarly be postponed with dates to be confirmed.