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Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Eastern Cape   28th June to 8th July 2018

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Various Locations
Somerset Street,
Grahamstown, 6139, Eastern Cape

Grahamstown National Arts Festival 2018

Eastern Cape Festivals

Grahamstown Accommodation

The Grahamstown National Arts Festival is the largest and most colourful cultural event in Africa.

Magical and creative musical collaborations will come into sharp focus at the 2018 Standard Bank Jazz Festival, which runs in Grahamstown from 28 June to 7 July during the National Arts Festival. As the oldest jazz festival on the African continent, SBJF 2018 will see a hot line-up of musicians from around the world collaborating across genre and geography, generation and gender to play music that celebrates various grand jazz legacies with youthful verve.

Leading the way is Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz THANDI NTULI, who brings her enterprising band Rebirth of Cool, which has found a fresh approach to playing jazz music in dialogue with everything from soul and rap to R&B. The group features a traditional band formation augmented by DJ Kenzhero spinning classic hits on the turntables. The pianist will also lead her group of rising jazz stars to present music from her new album, Exiled.

The legendary “King of the Zulu Guitar”, MADALA KUNENE will ascend to the stage to lead a creative collaboration that brings together electric and acoustic folk sounds. Acts such as The Brother Moves On, and the new face of Afrofolk Bongeziwe Mabandla will join Madala Kunene in an extraordinary night of music.

The ever-so-gracious heir to Miriam Makeba’s musical throne, her granddaughter ZENZI MAKEBA LEE will partner with AMANDA TIFFIN to present a collaborative project showcasing the power and prowess of their respective styles as vocalists. The pair will lead a band that includes bassist Romy Brauteseth, Afrika Mkhize on piano and Marlon Witbooi on drums. The collaboration has been in the making for a number of years and will come to fruition in Jazztown this winter.

Then there’s LISETTE SPINNLER and JULIE FAHRER – two incredible female vocalists from Switzerland performing with an excellent South African rhythm section as a nod to the collaborative spirit that underlies jazz in Grahamstown. They are in South Africa on residency made possible by Pro-Helvetia. The duo will lead drummer Peter Auret, Thandi Ntuli on piano, and bassist Shane Cooper in an energetic collaborative project that reflects the spirit of Jazztown where young and older musicians, legends and emerging artists get together to define possible futures for jazz music. They also join pianist Nduduzo Makhathini and his band in a collaboration on his latest compositions.

The ultimate collaboration will take place each night at the STANDARD BANK JAZZ & BLUES CAFé, where South African musicians will meet up with some of the international artists, ending the Festival day with a never-to-be-repeated jam session.

The Village Green

The Village Green Fair is home to some of the best craft and crafters South Africa has to offer. Handpicked for their fine work and dedication to their craft, most of these artists will be present to talk to you, and to showcase their work.

Give yourself a couple of hours (or days!) to wander the maze of marquees at the Fair. Explore the amazing talent of some extraordinary artists, and pick up some of their work to take home with you. It’s unquestionably the most interesting collection of tastes, sights and sounds you’ll ever find in one place. Then, when you’re on the verge of dropping from all the shopping, you can get a meal from the food court, or enjoy some spontaneous outbursts of AMAZING! The kids play area will feature performances, clowning, puppet shows and activities to keep them occupied throughout the day.

If you’re wondering where to find the latest sporting action, the Beer Garden includes flat screen TVs so you don’t need to miss a single second.

The adjacent Steve Biko Building houses a host of exhibition venues, a box office, a restaurant and the Cuervo Music Room, and will be wi-fi enabled, making sure that those who want to stay connected with the outside world have plenty of opportunity to do so.

The Fringe

The Fringe is a hotbed of innovation and packed with shows you will love discovering. Keep plenty of time on your schedule for the ‘hot buzz’ shows – the unexpected hits that have everyone talking, and the recipients of the coveted Standard Bank Ovation Awards which are handed out from day one of the Festival. The Fringe invades Grahamstown’s CBD with a huge variety of arts offerings that see seasoned pros and feisty newcomers united in the spirit of expression. They come from all nine provinces of South Africa as well as Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, the UK, the USA, Australia and the Netherlands.

Snapshot of the Theatre programme

New shows will accompany returning successes. Mike van Graan’s LAND ACTS, starring Daniel Mpilo Richards, takes a satirical look at SA’s hottest topic. Van Graan’s play GREEN MAN FLASHING, a fast-paced political thriller will also be on the bill along with WHEN SWALLOWS CRY, directed by Lesedi Job.

Cape Town Fringe Fresh Award winner, TSWALO will be coming to Grahamstown. A mesmerising piece directed by Mahlatsi Mokgonyana and performed by Billy Langa, it’s not to be missed.

The Artscape Theatre Centre brings family drama IMBEWU to the Festival, as well as NIGHT AND DAY, which will be directed by Khayalethu Anthony. Chris Weare will direct the South African classic THE ISLAND, a play written and conceived by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona about two prisoners on Robben Island as the one faces extended jail time and the other his imminent release.

2017 Standard Bank Ovation Award winner THE DEVIL AND BILLY MARKHAM returns in 2018 with the Faustian tale masterfully delivered by James Cairns, who stars in three other productions presented by Contagious Theatre. EL BLANCO will do its final year at the Festival and Cairns will also appear in his comedy show JAMES CAIRNS AGAINST HUMANITY and together with a cast for a stage production of Hemingway’s THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA.

The Edge presents SELWYN AND GABRIEL by Richard Kaplan (who also wrote The Finklesteins are Coming To Dinner). Starring Kai Luke Brummer and Mbulelo Oliphant, directed by Tara Notcutt, it’s a magical modern mystery about two strangers with secrets. Also on the Edge is J. BOBS LIVE – OFF THE RECORD – a game show theatre experience hosted by the inimitable Jefferson Bobs Tshabalala. J Bobs can also be found on the Arena programme, with J.Bobs Live – Location Lekeyshini Lokasie.

Top 5 Must See Shows at 2018 Arts Festival as chosen by Jade Bowers - Director and theatre maker Jade Bowers, the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist, will be bringing JUNGFRAU to the Main at this year’s Festival. We asked her what she’s most looking forward to seeing at #NAF18…

Jemma Kahn’s THE BORROW PIT – Always love Jemma – the way she incorporates the visual art aspects into her performance is always amazing.
Igshaan Adams’ WHEN DUST SETTLES – His work inspires. I enjoy the way he interrogates his own culture and traditions.
LITTLE PRINCE – Love the book. Must see anything by Mwenya and Clara!
J. BOBS LIVE (Arena programme) – I keep missing these shows. I would love to watch how the structure of this show works with the audience participation and the playing with the structure of how we view theatre.
ALPHONSE – Wajdi Mouawad’s writing is inspired. I enjoyed doing Scorched (Bowers’ premiered this play in South Africa at NAF in 2016) so much. I am excited to experience more of his work off the page.

Follow this link to view the Main and Arena programme of events at Grahamstown National Arts Festival