The festival runs for 11 days across 90 venues in Grahamstown, with more than 2000 performances on the programme and over 700 events – making it the largest arts festival on the African continent.
The Festival programme includes performing arts (theatre, dance, stand-up comedy and live music), visual art exhibitions, films, talks and workshops, a large food and craft fair and historical tours of the city.
What’s exciting about the festival is that it’s open to all regardless of race, colour, sex or creed and that no censorship or artistic restraint is imposed on works presented. For a small town, this is amazing because you are absolutely free to be who you want to be and wear whatever you want to wear.
The locals are friendly and hospitable and food and drinks are extremely cheap – from R2 shots to R10 wine, R15 beer and meals ranging from R20 – R70, this student town makes the experience fun and affordable for all its visitors!
The trip kicked off at the OR Tambo International airport as we jetted off to the Port Elizabeth airport. From PE airport, we drove to Grahamstown, just an hour away from the friendly city.
We checked in at a private game reserve – Pumba Private Game Reserve, that is about 6500 hectors in size. Pumba Game Reserve is home to a number of wild life in the region, including the big 5, hippos, monkeys, giraffes, birds and various Mzansi antelopes.
Back to the festival:
We came across a show titled ‘My silence is Talkative’ directed by Gcebile Dlamini. The show tackles issues, myths and misconceptions around albinism. We’re taken on a journey of a woman who gives birth to a child with albinism and how her life, her child’s life and her family’s life changes from that point on. The show is a great conversation stirrer, but also causes you to see how we (humans) are shallow, that something which has no voice (skin colour) can have such a ‘loud’ role in our society.
The arts fest also put into perspective how excellent the Mzansi Comedy scene is. All the comedy shows showcased at the festival were of a high quality – one hour was not enough. There were shows from Rob Van Vuuren (The very big comedy show), Loyiso Gola (Unlearning), Robby Collins, Loyiso Madinga, Schalk Bezuidenhout, Lazola Gola and many more.
Gilli Apter stood out at ‘The Very Big Comedy Show’, not only because she’s a female comedian, but because she’s a new face and her style of comedy is universal and because she had the amazing ability of reading the audiences minds, both male and female. She’s definitely one to look out for in 2018 and 2019.
Lastly, the talk of the town was a show titled ‘My Vagina is Angry!’ - an abstract revelation of the internal conflict that goes on in a young woman's life, as her Vagina possesses her and obligates her to take her two lovers captive. The show highlights how the very thing that gave you life (a vagina) can take control of your life and pushed you to the edge.
Directed by Nhlapo Khisi, the show’s name was on most lips.Everywhere you went, they'd be one or two people asking “Have you watched my vagina is angry?” or “Are you going to what my vagina is angry?” It goes to show how powerful a shows title can be.
Overall, the National Arts Fest was an amazing experience filled with a wide variety - I would recommend it for anyone, not only art lovers.
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