The National Arts Festival Comes to SA Cities

Mid pandemic, the National Arts Festival predicted that for some, the annual arts pilgrimage to Makhanda may be more challenging this year. So, while a smaller, tighter 11 days of amazing will still be happening live in Makhanda for the superfans, arts explorers and Eastern Cape audiences, the NAF, with the support of Standard Bank, will also be bringing select shows to arts lovers in their own home towns. 

Residents of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Gqeberha and Durban can look forward to the new Standard Bank Presents programme brought to them by the National Arts Festival in their own city, starting on 17 June and running till the 4 July 2021, with a very special hybrid comedy show on 10 July. 

The shows selected for these events include an exciting line-up of new theatre releases; performances by the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artists and a powerful programme of jazz as part of the annual Standard Bank Jazz Festival. 

Shows in Partner Venues 

In Cape Town, the concerts and shows will be happening at Gallery 44, a theatre space in Long Street. In Durban, audiences will see shows at the Seabrooke’s Theatre at Durban High School and in Johannesburg the programme is spread across the Market Theatre complex, AFDA Red Roof Theatre and Wits Theatre. Standard Bank Presents will also be coming to Walmer in Gqeberha, where the shows will happen at the Masifunde Learner Academy. All shows will be staged under strict Covid-19 protocols with socially distanced seating, mandatory wearing of masks and a vigorous sanitising routine before and after shows.

A ground-breaking edition of the Festival’s traditional Very Big Comedy Showwill, this year, evolve into a hybrid show that will take place in three cities simultaneously – to live and online audiences boasting a line-up of 12 top comedians and all-star hosts on 10 July. 

The NAF Continues to Evolve

“It truly is a privilege to be part of the evolution of the NAF, finding new ways to deliver the Festival experience and creating a showcase for talent beyond its traditional home in Makhanda. The Standard Bank Presents programme brings a taste of Makhanda closer to these audiences in local venues that they’re familiar with,” says Desiree Pooe, Head of Sponsorship & Events at Standard Bank.

National Arts Festival CEO, Monica Newton, explains that the Standard Bank Presents shows are a taste of what lies in store for visitors to the live Festival in Makhanda, “The National Arts Festival is an experience like no other, there is nothing quite like spending your entire day inside the minds of artists. You feel challenged, invigorated and inspired. We wanted to bring that experience to our audiences in cities, but we encourage people who have never been to Makhanda for the Festival to put it on their bucket list or even better, come and join us for a truly unique Festival this year. The arts really are food for the soul, and we think these shows will definitely whet your appetite.”

What to expect 

In Cape Town 

All Cape Town shows will be hosted at Gallery 44, the theatre venue at 44 Long Street. 

Children’s show The Magic Shell from Jungle Theatre, will delight families of young children, by stepping into a world where animals and humans are connected. Their imaginations become rooted in culture and nature. Ideal for 4-7 year olds but great for most primary school children, there are two shows at 10am and 2pm on 17 June. 

Restorians, the Jitsvinger Trio’s latest musical collaboration, focuses on the social history and cultural wealth of past generations and how these shared stories create a new musical form that speaks for an entire generation. Jitsvinger is an Afrikaaps (Afrikaans with local Cape Town dialect) vernacular performer and vocalist who combines Hip Hop, poetry, self-composed music, theatre and storytelling with an authentically South African, home-grown sound. Catch it on 19 June 2021.  

It’s a day of jazz on Sunday 20 June with Mandisi Dyantyis and Siya Charleson the line-up. Although both artists have travelled extensively, they both have roots in the Eastern Cape.

Fans of the Fringe will also have an opportunity to buy tickets for a performance that will be recorded for the National Arts Festival Online. The Flower Huntersfrom Maggie Gericke and Sophie Joans, is a tribute to the messiness of life and the ongoing tussle between dreams and reality. See it on 22 June.  

Based on Credo Mutwa’s ‘The Coming of the Strange Ones,‘ Qondiswa James’ new dance theatre performance Ndinxaniwe, explores the insidious effects of patriarchy and colonial conquest on present day rural boyhood on 25 & 26 June.  

In Johannesburg 

Shows take place at The Market Theatre complex, AFDA Red Roof Theatre and Wits Theatre.

At Wits Theatre, multi-platinum award-winning singer Lira is on the line-up as part of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival with her distinct fusion of soul and funk with elements of jazz and African music on 26 June. This will also be the day to catch the multi-award-winning, platinum-selling ‘Queen of Afro-Jazz’, Judith Sephuma on the same stage. See Judith Sephuma at 12, Lira at 3:30pm and then follow it up with Bokani Dreyer who will be performing there at 7pm. 

Three 2020 Standard Bank Young Artists are on the programme at Standard Bank Presents in Johannesburg. Jazz title holder, Sisonke Xonti is at the John Kani Theatre at The Market Theatre Complex on 4 July, 2020, Standard Bank Young Artist for Musica, Nthato Mokgata, is at the John Kani Theatre with Afro Jazz Giant Tribute, an exploration of the South African Jazz songbook on 3 July, and 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance, Lulu Mlangeni, will perform her dance performance Kganya (Light) which celebrates the transcendence of survival in the face of despair, at the Market Theatre on 30 June & 1 July at 7pm and 2 July 2021 at 6pm.  

Catch the new show from Tony Miyambo and Phala O PhalaCommission Continua isan interrogation of South Africa’s various ‘commissions’ such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, …. And asks how we can truly find the healing this country needs. Award-winning actor, Tony Miyambo plays the lead role. The show is on 30 June, 1 July & 4 July.

Another Johannesburg Standard Bank Presents work not to be missed is Van Wyk, The Story Teller of Riverlea at The Market Theatre on 2&3 July. The play explores renowned South African author Chris van Wyk’s influences as a poet, political activist, and writer paying homage to his humour, political values and storytelling abilities, all of which touched the lives of everyone who read his works. Zane Meas wrote the play and takes the part of Van Wyk. 

On 2&3 July, Jeremy Nedd & Impilo Mapantsula will stage The Ecstatic, a dance piece which sees six Pantsula dancers interpret the moment or pause… a break in the context of the Christian Pentecostal Church service, where the dancing body, voice and music energetically coalesce and as a result, blur the difference between ecstatic and cathartic in order to find out, and “break open” a new space that is all their own. This work is supported by Pro Helvetia and is staged at the Wits Theatre.  

More music from the Standard Bank Jazz Festival comes in the shape of SAMA Award winning South African DJ and producer Sun-EL who is joined by a stellar line-up of musicians who together will deliver a mix of melodic house and afro beats that bring South Africa to the world (27 June at Wits Theatre). Pianist, vocalist and composer Siphephelo Ndlovu’s SN Project is a series of original compositions that incorporates his South African culture with his knowledge of jazz with his startlingly clear voice on 27 June. 

Another show to diarise for the 27th June (Wits Theatre) is Benjamin Jeptha’sBorn Coloured: not ‘Born-free’ in which he dissects his experience as a so-called ‘Coloured’ and creates music centred around themes important to upbringing and cultural identity.

An unmissable later addition to the programme, The Oratorio of a Forgotten Youth is an ambitious collaboration by The Brother Moves On in association with the Wits School of Arts, the Resonance String Quartet and the Vivacious Sounds Choir, led by 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, Mandla Mlangeni. This multidisciplinary, genre-bending and intergenerational collaborative endeavour brings together jazz, rock, classical and indigenous music influences. The sonic memoirs look to re-imagine the possibilities of our imagined world. The libretto by Lesego Rampolokeng features performances with sonic and multimedia expressions that invoke the spirit of the forgotten youth, and that seek to be the springboard for the production and execution of bold new ideas of reimagining spaces for creative discourse. This one is on 7 July at Wits Theatre. 

In Durban

All shows are happening at the Seabrooke’s Theatre.

The Melvin Peters Trio is setting the stage on Saturday 19 June at 6pm. Melvin Peters has performed around the world in different music genres and has worked with many of South Africa’s top musicians, ranging from Abdullah Ibrahim and Winston Mankunku Ngozi to the Free State Symphony Orchestra and the Cape Town Jazz Orchestra. With repertoire that ranges from mainstream to modern jazz the trio combine solid musicianship with creativity and imaginative improvisatory skills.

Afrika Mama’s will be performing Acapella, a celebration of voice and sound at 2pm on 20 June 2021. The seven-piece isicathamiya acapella group hails from the area but have performed internationally in Germany, Poland, Belgium, Holland, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Namibia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. They also won the Imbokodo Award at the Isicathamiya Awards in 2019.

The Neil Gonsalves Trio will take to the Standard Bank Presents stage with ‘Blessings and Blues’, also the title of the latest album from Durban pianist Neil Gonsalves. Described as “a very conversational and negotiated music-making experience”, the music itself takes its influence from the rich diversity of cultural life that characterises his hometown of Durban. Live on stage at 6pm on 20 July at the Seabrooke Theatre. 

In Gqeberha

All shows are happening at the Masifunde Learner Academy 

On 3 July,Xabiso Zweni and the Masifunde Creative Academy will perform the musical satire Social Disturbing for their Standard Bank Presents show. The play uses satire and music to explore the murkiness of controversies, fake news and miracle cures at a time when these issues threaten to polarise and fool us all. 

Also in Walmer, Francois Knoetze’s Core Dump is a four-part video exhibition filmed in Dakar, Kinshasa, Shenzhen and New York that extends the metaphor of a computer crash to the impending breakdown and unsustainability of the global capitalist techno-scientific system. 

Also on 3 July, S’bane, from all-women quartet Acapella Narrative will honour our fallen and living legends of music, with a repertoire that comprises of acapella renditions of some of the greatest South African records.

You will hear music from the likes of the late Mama Busi Mhlongo, Sibongile Khumalo, Brenda Fassie and our living legendary guitarist/producer Bra Lawrence Matshiza. We’ll also be featuring Gqeberha born soprano vocalist,Lisa Yengeni, who is also currently a contestant of Old Mutual’s Amazing Voices on Mzansi Magic.

The Standard Bank Presents programme can be viewed online  and all booking links are on the show page so you can book your tickets directly from there. 

For a calendar view of the National Arts Festival Programme visit

Strict COVID-19 protocols will be in place during all of our live events. Mask wearing will be essential, there will be social distancing and spaced seating as per the government regulations and there will be no interval. The venues will be thoroughly sanitized between events. 

Tickets for Standard Bank Presents are on sale now. 

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