After the horn had sounded to open the first Mangaung African Cultural Festival (Macufe) in 1997, approximately 30 000 festivalgoers reportedly pitched over ten days.
The heritage celebration event now attracts around 140 000 patrons from South Africa, Africa and the world.
This Free State government initiative, driven by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, has grown to multiply the number of festivalgoers and equally the budget, now worth millions.
It reportedly started with R1 million in 1997, and saw an 1% increase in budget for 1998. In recent years the costs are about R30 million.
The heritage festival was incepted during the tenure of late Premier Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri.
She was sharply criticised, with critics pointing out the obvious influence on the SABC, given she served as board chairperson prior to deployment by the ANC to serve as Free State premier, replacing Terror Lekota.
There were even sharper criticism against Motsepe-Casaburri in 1999 when the event did not take place.
This was after the department, then under MEC Webster Mfebe, channelled the budget to the Phakisa Raceway for staging the South African motorcycle grand prix championship in Welkom.
Subsequently, Matsepe-Casaburri was praised by the artistic community for ensuring the sustainability of Macufe.
This year marks the 21-year existence of the festival, and 20 years of successful staging, having skipped 1999.
The Macufe spectacle is South Africa’s largest heritage festival including music.
According to the department, the festival has transformed into an economic catalyst, generating approximately R91 million expenditure by visitors and R150 million expenditure when it comes to all patrons.
Initially, apart from some exceptional cases, English and Afrikaans were used almost exclusively on the festival stages of the Macufe event.
The festival is renowned for showcasing the cream of African and international established artists.
This includes Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, South Africa’s mbaqanga supergroup led by erstwhile Simon Mahlathini Nkabinde “The Lion of Soweto”.
- Patrons converge on Bloemfontein to celebrate African heritage under the theme Kaofela Re Moo (We are here, all of us). Macufe 2018 starts on Friday (05/10) and ends on Sunday, 14 October. Visit www.macufe.co.za