01 July, 2012

New Developments on the National Arts Festival

By Tony Manyangadze, Tiragalo Kgowa and Thandi Duze

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Mziyanda Alwyn, an artist from King Williams Town attending the National Arts Festival for the first time
Picture By Tony Manyagadze

With just three days into the arts festivities, the National Arts Festival has brought out different emotions from some of the festival goers.
 “The programme changes every year, the very nature of the Arts is it never stays the same”, said Ismail Mohamed, the National Arts Festival Director.

Mohamed also emphasised that the organisers, from year to year, strive to organise a unique and better festival for both the artistes and the visitors. “We create newer programmes every year to respond to the newer challenges, newer themes, newer ways in which artistes create work,” he said, “there are newer artistes, newer expressions and there are new forms of art, so new is in many different ways.”

Michel Schneuwly, a musician who plays for the KwaZulu Natal Philharmonics and has been attending the festival since 1985 has noted the developments when it comes to the level of organisation of the festival itself. He said that “there are different shows, different weather and mobility is pleasant and easy.”

Schneuwly is also strongly against the festival being moved from Grahamstown, “I like it here, it’s easy for the organisers and accommodation is cheaper compared to the big cities were hotels charge exorbitant prices” said the Durban Musician.

Some artistes feel that this year’s differences are against them, profit wise. “It’s a little bit quiet this time around compared to last year, people are not buying anything and this is not good news to me as an artist because I booked for the space I am using expecting something in return” said Abisha Zungaire, a Zimbabwean based in Cape Town. “I have to put food on the table at the end of the day,” he added.

Sakhumzi Nyendwane, a painter from Port Elizabeth who is attending the festival for the first time is, so far, pleased with his stay in Grahamstown. “I’m happy to be here because it’s my first time and I was so looking forward to being here.” He also added that many of his expectations, coming to the festival have been met. “I have had the opportunity to network with different artistes who have shown me new things about art,” said Nyendwane.

Another new comer, Mziyanda Alwyn shared different sentiments, unfortunately his stay hasn’t been as he expected. “It’s my first time coming here, I have been here for three days and I haven’t sold anything yet. Instead of making a profit, I have actually made a loss considering that I paid for all the expenses I am incurring.”

With eight days remaining, there is still hope for artistes like Mziyanda. According to the festival’s schedule, a lot of shows and exhibitors are still to exhibit their goods and services.

The writers are part of the Future Journalist Programme (2012), a project of Highway Africa at the Rhodes University School of Journalism & Media Studies.

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