National Arts Festival goes live on website for global audience

Ami Faku
Ami Faku

As planned, the 46th National Arts Festival (NAF) that is being presented virtually started today.

The festival, which runs from June 25 to July 5, on the festival's official website, will give global audiences a platform to experience the festival through pre-recorded concerts, poetry and stage performances, interactive webinars and workshops as well as virtual exhibitions.

With a combination of more than 250 events, the programme's highlights include Madosini, Thandiswa Mazwai, Dumza Maswana, Mi Casa and Ami Faku to name a few.

“We started planning for a live festival in January, in mid-March we stopped planning for a live festival and with 100 days to go, started planning for a virtual festival. We have one of the largest virtual festivals certainly on the continent and possibly in the world,” said National Arts Festival CEO Monica Newton in a festival review interview on its website.

Newton highlighted how this virtual move meant organisers could not simply transfer their usual live programme into a virtual mode and that many of the performances and events were created specifically to suit this mode of delivery.

“The reality is that we are filming work or work is being created entirely online and that means that the production values are different and how the work is done is different.For us it means that we can reach more audiences than ever before because we are not bound by geography and time and space,” she said.

Artistic director Rucera Seethal said this year's theme was highly centred around how artists can deliver their work to their audiences in a way that will ensure that the audiences still feel a connected to the experience.

“With this festival being online there is the idea of the artist being confronted with themselves and their practice and what they want to do and very interestingly enough a question around how do I connect to my audience? How do I take my message to you?” she said.

Fringe manager, Zikhona Monaheng touched on some of the concerns and mixed feelings that the artists had with the decision to deliver the festival in an online, virtual format. While others flagged concerns around the effect of the experience the audiences will receive, others were concerned with the generation of income and that would work in a virtual sphere.

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