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Visiting the National Arts Festival on South African Rhapsody

Two hundred years after its establishment as a remote military outpost, the historic settlement of Grahamstown (recently renamed Makhanda) is a quiet university town 354 days of the year. But for the other 11 days each year, it completely transforms to become Africa’s largest multi-arts festival, attracting more than 200,000 visitors, who come to see more than 2,000 performances staged across 90 venues in a program of more than 600 productions and events. The festival traces its origins to 1974 when the 1820 Settlers National Monument was officially dedicated and hosted an inaugural festival as part of the commemorative events. Today, the National Arts Festival includes dance, theatre, music, performance art, film and visual art and enjoys strong participation with artists from all of Artists from across Africa perform at the festival. South Africa’s nine provinces as well as numerous international artists, and audiences coming from around the globe. The festival includes both a Main and Fringe program. The Main program features international work as well as brand-new work from South Africa’s top talent and showcases curated works that have been selected by an Artistic Committee after a lengthy application and consideration process. The Fringe program, on the other hand, includes a diverse mix of works across genres and its distinguishing feature is that it is open to all and exempt from the selection and curation processes that apply to the Main program. Both debuting as well as seasoned performers and directors can be found in both the Main and Fringe programs. During the festival, the normally sleepy town of Makhanda bursts to life and becomes an energetic hub of communication and creativity. Between performances and in the evenings, artists and audience members gather to converse and share ideas at the town’s numerous restaurants, bars and cafes. For every arts lover, the National Arts Festival must surely have a place on the life-long to-do list!

So, if you are interested in learning more about the arts and culture of South Africa, South African Rhapsody is the perfect sojourn for you!

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