National Arts Festival opts for digital realm

Ruth Cooper 

The National Arts Festival team has announced that it would enter the digital realm after it had to be postponed as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

    CEO Monica Newton said the decision to go virtual was made with artists in mind.

   “We considered postponing but the timeline looked very uncertain. We have to work with Makhanda’s academic calendar and the only other time of the year would have been December, which is impossibly hot in Makhanda,” she said.

  Artistic director Rucera Seethal said: “Choosing to go the virtual route was the difficult route, but we decided that it was better than cancelling.”

  The Virtual National Arts Festival, which will run from 25 June-5 July, will be hosted on the Festival’s website, which will act as a portal to short films, virtual art exhibitions, online workshops and other experiences and events.

  Technical director Nicci Spalding said this will allow the organisers to protect the artists’ work from being downloaded or copied, and will allow the festival to manage access to the work as the majority of the programme will require virtual audiences to buy tickets.

  Seethal said it is very important that the arts maintained its value in the shift to an online space. “The festival will be selling ticket packages so visitors will be able to view a selection of works. Aside from the live works, it will be possible to view most of the shows at your leisure. Each day of the festival will offer an online programme for audiences to choose from.”

  Seethal explained that the festival is still open to ideas from artists and producers, not just for work, but for ways to collaborate, offer resources, and mentorship. 

  She pointed towards an Ideas Form on the festival’s website and asked that interested parties submit theirs as soon as possible.

  When the festival launches in June, it will have a curated daily programme for each of the 11 days that will feature a mix of theatre, comedy, visual arts, workshops, talks and experiences as well as elements of the Standard Bank Creativate Digital Arts Festival programme. 

  National Arts Festival Fringe manager Zikhona Monaheng said having an open platform for artists would allow anyone whose work was not selected for the curated daily programme to put their work online, and would create the potential to make some money. The festival will only take a 10% handling fee to manage ticket transactions in the open-platform space, leaving the artists with 90% of the takings. 

   Executive producer Nobesuthu Rayi said the move to do this festival online was motivated primarily by concern for artists. “We wanted to enable as many artists as possible to be paid and have a space to show work. Right now, the digital divide is bigger than us but, once we start to take up space there, artists can participate in reshaping that space over time.”  

  Anyone wishing to contribute ideas, resources or work for the festival can submit them on the Ideas Form.

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