The National Arts Festival 2019 Main Programme is a response to the tangled times we live in

The dizzying rotation of newsfeeds, non-stop change and the struggle for something newer, more connected and as yet unborn, is played out in the works on the National Arts Festival’s 2019 Main Programme, which is selectively curated by the Festival and its Artistic Committee.

Held in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) from 27 June-7 July this year, the main programme forms part of a much broader offering of uncurated, unsolicited works and multiple focus areas for discussion and experience. It is a richly stimulating and thought-provoking journey through some of the issues at the top of artists’ minds and makes for a deep dive into what South Africa is grappling with and can reimagine if it has the will.

Core to the mood of the 2019 programme is a desire to reflect on identity. From the rich celebrations of indigenous African music and dance to reworkings of classical and contemporary pieces, there is a desire to explore culture and connection, land and belonging. 

The continuing merging and blending of genres and the growing influence and creative possibility of technology is evident through an exciting streak of productions running through the programme, some of which form part of the Creativate Digital Arts Festival, which runs throughout the festival this year.

Says Acting Executive Producer of the National Arts Festival, Nobesuthu Rayi: 

“I would venture that festival goers are going to be challenged, amused and inspired by this year’s programme with its many layers and textures. Many of us will find ourselves meandering between ‘then’ and ‘now’ with a combination of past reflections and the unsettling present as we try to figure out what next for humanity and the country we call home. We are proud to be presenting such a carefully selected program with different shades and textures covering such range – from entertaining to thought-provoking – creating a holistic experience. It’s an experience I look forward to sharing with you.”

As the Festival celebrates its 45th year, one of its longest standing partners is Standard Bank. Desiree Pooe, Head of Group Sponsorships at Standard Bank commented on the 2019 National Arts Festival: “On this 35th anniversary of our partnership with the National Arts Festival, we cannot wait to delve into and savour the delights of the 2019 offering. From the Children’s Festival to the Creativate Digital Arts Festival, the 2019 Standard Bank Young Artists’ solo productions, world-class jazz, theatre, visual arts, dance and contemporary music productions, the National Arts Festival will once again take us to a higher level. On behalf of Standard Bank, I encourage you to experience, engage, enjoy and show your #AfricanheART.” 

A PDF of the Main Programme is available on


Bookings open on 7 May 2019.

Festival fans wanting to plan their trip can get some handy tips from the National Arts Festival’s website.

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