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South Africa: National Arts Festival May Go Live Again

By Loyiso Dyongman
Makhanda residents hoping for a better year

The National Arts Festival is planning some live shows in July, according to public relations officer Sascha Polkey. The festival had to go virtual last year because of Covid-19, leaving vendors, artists and accommodation hosts out of pocket.

The 11-day event is an annual windfall for many low-income earners in Makhanda.

The festival’s public relations officer Sascha Polkey told GroundUp: “Talking to audiences and artists, there is definitely a deep hunger to see live performances again and many people have indicated anecdotal interest in coming to a live festival.”

“We are planning to have some live shows in Makhanda within the month of July and these events will fall in line with the rapidly-evolving Covid-19 situation – as safety is our priority,” she said.

Nomathemba Moleli, who is 71, runs Moleli Homestay in the middle of Joza location. “Every year I know that I’m going to have money. I have so many things to do in this house with the money I get from the visitors during festival,” she says.

But last year was a “disaster”, she says. She lives on an old age grant with a grandchild she supports and her unemployed son.

She offers one double bedroom for R300 a night and two single bedrooms for R200 per person per night. The dining room and kitchen are communal. Booking is done through Kwam e-Makana Homestays.

Nontsikelelo Ngandi, owner of Ntsiki Homestay in Phumlani, rents out two single and two double bedrooms and provides breakfast. With the pandemic having wiped out business, the family depends on her daughter who sells homemade food from a caravan outside a tavern.

Poet Luphawu Mankayi, from Tantyi location, said thanks to the festival, where he has performed for over eight years, he always knew that money was going to come in.

“I get a lot of money during the festival,” said Mankayi. “To hear that this year things will open up a bit is great news.” He helps support his mother and two siblings.

Polkey said the festival organisers hoped that Kwam e-Makana and other local businesses will get better bookings with a return to a live festival.

“We do believe that we will be able to create something truly memorable and special with this year’s historic gathering,” she said.

Polkey said the festival organisers were “close to finalising” details and would make an announcement soon.

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