What not to miss at the 2012 National Arts Festival

Posted by Adel Groenewald on 12 June 2012

It’s almost time for this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown – surely one of the country’s cultural highlights. But with a festival that’s so extensive, it’s sometimes difficult to start planning your route. And with all the wonderful free shows and public festivities, it’s easy to get lost in the crowds and only when you read the reviews, you become aware of all the exhibitions and performances that you missed out on.

So this year, why not go prepared? Decide on the shows you’d really like to see before you go and book these tickets in advance so that you don’t show up at a sold out gig.

To make your planning easier, we’ve put together a collection of top performances, exhibitions and productions worth checking out.




This sharp-tongued Afrikaans rapper from the Cape Flats collaborates with South African jazz musician Kyle Shepherd in a performance that will not only make you laugh at his witty lyrics, but also make you think about some social and cutting-edge issues.

Date: Fri 29 June
Time: 22:00
Venue: DSG Hall
Price: R60

Carine Bonnefoy New Large Ensemble

French pianist and composer, Carine Bonnefoy is one of Europe’s most innovative jazz, classical and nu-music composers. She brings with her a mini-orchestra of strings, brass and rhythm for a vibrant musical collaboration between France and South Africa.

Date: Sun 1 July & Tue 3 July
Time: 19:30
Venue: DSG Hall
Price: R70 (R60 for students)

Louis Armstrong and Friends

Enjoy many arrangements of Armstrong classics, with performances by Prince Lengoasa (trumpet & vocals), Veramarie Meyer (mezzo-soprano) and Nicholas Nicholaidis (tenor). The orchestra will be conducted by Richard Cock.

Date: Mon 2 July
Time: 14:00
Venue: Guy Butler Theatre, Monument
Price: R55 (R45 for students)

Performing arts

The Cradle of Humankind

Stephen Cohen makes his first appearance at the National Arts Festival stage this year and joining him on the stage will be Nomsa Dlamini, his 90-year-old co-performer, for this fascinating performing arts piece.

Date: Mon 2 July – Wed 4 July
Time: 20:00
Venue: Rhodes Theatre
Price: R55 (R45 for students)

Exhibit A

Presented by Brett Bailey’s Third World Bunfight company, this performance explores the theme of human zoos, a common occurance between the mid 19th Century and the Second World War, when people from the non-Western world were exhibited.

Date: Thu 28 June – Mon 2 July
Time: 10:00, 10:45, 12:00, 12:45, 18:00, 18:45, 20:00, 20:45
Venue: GADRA Matric School
Price: R55 (R45 for students)

Antjie in Berlin

Based on a number of letters written by Antjie Krog while on a residency in Berlin, this part concert performance, part sound installation takes the audience on a memorable aural journey. Performers include the talented South African pianist, Jill Richards, sound technician Shaughn Macrae and composer Rudiger Meyer.

Date: Tue 3 July & Wed 4 July
Time: 17:00 (on Wed 4 July only) & 20:00
Venue: Guy Butler Theatre
Price: R55 (R45 for students)


Visual arts

Making Way

Curated by Ruth Simbao, this exploratory and innovative exhibition will be presented in three venues: the Alumni Gallery, the Provost and Fort Selwyn; but curated as one exhibition installation. Look forward to photography, print, painting, video, animated film, and performances by Randolph Hartzenberg, Doung Anwar Jahangeer, Athi-Patra Ruga and Gerald Machona.

Date: Open daily
Time: 09:30-17:00
Venue: Alumni Gallery, Provost and Fort Selwyn
Price: Free of charge

Venus at Home

Curated by Les Cohn, Usha Seejarim depicts the female body as seen in art history, using ordinary household objects to do so and exploring her own role as housewife, mother and artist at the same time.

Date: Open daily
Time: 09:00 -18:00
Venue: Gallery, Monument
Price: Free of charge

Retinal Shift

Mikhael Subotzky, the 2012 Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art, presents a four-channel film installation, featuring some photographic installation pieces. The exhibition investigates the practice and mechanics of looking, in relation to the history of Grahamstown, the history of photographic devices, and Subotzky’s own history as an artist.

Date: Open daily
Time: 09:00 – 18:00
Venue: Monument Gallery and the Gallery in the Round, 1820 Monument
Price: Free of charge



Opera for Fools

South African choreographer Vincent Mantsoe explores the shebeen-lifestyle and the things that make people enjoy their daily lives and enables them to forgive, but not forget. This vibrant dance performance features music from Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Johnny Clegg, Sello ‘Chicco” Twala and Stimela.

Date: Thu 28 June – Sat 30 June
Time: 16:00 & 20:00 (except Thu 28 June)
Venue: Alec Mullins
Price: R55 (R45 for students)


This classic masterpiece, performed by Cape Town City Ballet, tells the story of a girl whose ghost protects her lover from the vengeance of a group of evil female spirits who rise from their graves at night and seek revenge upon men by dancing them to death. The performances will be accompanied by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra.

Date: Fri 29 June & Sat 30 June
Time: 11:00 (only on Fri 29 June) & 19:00
Venue: Guy Butler Theatre, Monument
Price: R85 (R75 for students)


Inspired by Andre Carl van der Merwe’s novel with the same title, Bailey Snyman (Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance) has created a dance play that will explore and expose the fears, anxieties and overwhelming sense of denial of gay people in the military.

Date: Mon 2 July – Wed 4 July
Time: 12:00 (except Mon 2 July) & 18:30
Venue: Alec Mullins
Price: R55 (R45 for students)




Independent Durban-based theatre company, Kickstart will present the South African premiere of this John Logan 2010 Tony Award winning play. Directed by Steven Stead, it explores the fascinating creative process and inner conflict of the famous American artist, Mark Rothko.

Date: Thu 28 June – Sat 30 June
Time: 14:00 (except on Thu 28 June) & 20:00
Venue: Rhodes Box Theatre
Price: R55 (R45 for students)

The Blue Iris

In celebration of Athol Fugard’s 80th birthday in June, the National Arts Festival will be showcasing the world premiere of this influential playwright’s newest play, celebrating his life and work at the same time. This deeply brilliant love story is directed by Janice Honeyman.

Date: Thu 28 June – Sat 30 June
Time: 14:00 (except on Thu 28 June) & 18:30
Venue: Rhodes Theatre
Price: R55 (R45 for students)

Conversations with Pieter-Dirk EISH

As always, Uys brings to the light many uncomfortable political truths in his classic satirical way, cracking up even those being mocked.

Date: Thu 5 July
Time: 19:00
Venue: Guy Butler Theatre
Price: R75 (R65 for students)


To find out about the other shows at the festival, visit the National Arts Festival’s website.

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