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What to expect from the National Arts Festival's countrywide programme

The National Arts Festival's (NAF) countrywide programme kicks off today, 17 June 2021. As many people can't visit Makhanda during the Covid-19 pandemic, with the support of Standard Bank, the NAF will take the festival to Johannesburg, Cape Town, Gqeberha and Durban from 17 June until 4 July 2021, with a hybrid comedy show on 10 July. Due to the worsening Covid-19 situation the concerts in Joburg have been cancelled.
The shows selected for these events include a lineup of new theatre releases; performances by the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artists; and a programme of jazz as part of the annual Standard Bank Jazz Festival. 

Mandisi Dyantyis will be on the programme at the Cape Town edition of Standard Bank Presents
Mandisi Dyantyis will be on the programme at the Cape Town edition of Standard Bank Presents

Here’s what to expect National Arts Festival’s countrywide programme: 

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 four- to seven-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 dialect in Cape Town) 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.  

The Jitsvinger Trio is performing at Gallery 44 in Long Street, Cape Town as part of the Standard Bank Presents programme
The Jitsvinger Trio is performing at Gallery 44 in Long Street, Cape Town as part of the Standard Bank Presents programme

It’s a day of jazz on Sunday, 20 June with Mandisi Dyantyis and Siya Charles on the lineup. 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 Hunters, from 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 and 26 June.  


Update: The Festival has, together with partner Standard Bank - Arts, reviewed the current Covid-19 situation in Johannesburg and has made the decision to discontinue all audiences for the #StandardBankPresents concerts on the Johannesburg programme.

Tickets for these shows will be fully refunded. The Standard Bank Presents events in Cape Town and Gqeberha are going ahead with audiences, and tickets for those events remain on sale. All of the Johannesburg concerts will be recorded for the #NAFOnline programme and we look forward to sharing more details about that in the days to come.

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 lineup 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 12pm, Lira at 3.30pm and then follow it up with Bokani Dreyer who will be performing there at 7pm. 

Judith Sephuma will perform her show live on stage in Johannesburg
Judith Sephuma will perform her show live on stage in Johannesburg

Three 2020 Standard Bank Young Artists are on the programme at Standard Bank Presents in Johannesburg. Jazz titleholder, 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 and 1 July at 7pm and 2 July 2021 at 6pm.  

Catch the new show from Tony Miyambo and Phala O Phala, Commission Continua is an 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 and 4 July.

Another Johannesburg Standard Bank Presents work not to be missed is Van Wyk, The Storyteller of Riverlea at The Market Theatre on 2 and 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 and 3 July, Jeremy Nedd and Impilo Mapantsula will stage The Ecstatic, a dance piece that 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, blurring the difference between ecstatic and cathartic 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-winning South African DJ and producer Sun-EL who is joined by a stellar lineup 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 27 June (Wits Theatre) is Benjamin Jeptha’s Born 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.

Benjamin Jephta performs "Born Coloured: not 'Born-free'" in Johannesburg
Benjamin Jephta performs "Born Coloured: not 'Born-free'" in Johannesburg

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 bring 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 seeks 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. 


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 a 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. 

The Neil Gonsalves Trio will perform at Standard Bank Presents in Durban
The Neil Gonsalves Trio will perform at Standard Bank Presents in Durban


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 cure 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 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

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