Technical glitches won’t stop festival

Multi-disciplinary artist Tandile Mbatsha is one of the panelists who took part in a virtual National Arts Festival webinar on Friday
CREATIVE SHIFT: Multi-disciplinary artist Tandile Mbatsha is one of the panelists who took part in a virtual National Arts Festival webinar on Friday

Technical glitches will not stop the first virtual National Arts Festival, according to festival CEO Monica Newton.

The annual festival hosted in Makhanda was forced to go online due to strict restrictions prohibiting gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Newton has promised a jam-packed programme for this week in the form of international webinars, performances and galleries which can all be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home.

“We had a complicated first weekend and as someone on Twitter said, ‘great things take time’.

“We had some technical challenges — specifically speed issues — on Sunday, but the technical team worked overnight and sorted those things out,” she said.

Newton said the depth and variety of the programme was one of the things audiences would have seen at the weekend.

“We had Jacob Collier on Sunday who is an Grammy award-winning singer in the UK.

“We also had our own SA jazz singer, Gloria Bosman, who is one of our great assets.”

Newton said among the highlights from earlier in the week were comedians Rob van Vuuren,  Lindy Johnson, Kagiso Lediga, Robby Collins and Tumi Morake, who is in the US, and Alan Committie speaking on Zoom about their worst gig experiences.

Newton said all of the festival programming, with the exception of the live performances, would be available online until July 16.

“If you miss a show, or if you have no power or internet failures, then we have got you covered,” she said.

In terms of the week ahead, one of Newton’s recommendations relates to the fourth industrial revolution in the form of a piece coming from France called Human Study.

“Robots draw portraits ... it’s very popular and the audience would need to get their slots very quickly.

“Our own Anton Krueger, who is based with us here in Makhanda, also does an interactive performance with 11 people about Zoom and it’s really about interacting in the digital space,” she said.

Other highlights, Newton said, were the jazz pieces which were being released daily.

“I love the piece by LoveChild [Vuyiseka Maguga] and I keep on going back and listening to it.

“That’s one of the great things about this festival — you are able to rewatch something that you have loved,” she said.

Asked what she missed the most about past festivals, Newton said it was the people.

“We miss having everybody in the streets of Makhanda.

“The streets are quiet and it’s a completely ‘not festival’ year,” she said.

“However, we take comfort in that our audiences are able to watch us in the comfort of their homes and at different times in accordance to their schedules.

“And people outside SA are enjoying and watching us.”

Newton said this week’s programming was for lovers of politics, debating and anyone who wanted to learn something about digital art.

Artists had also found new realms in which to showcase their work.

“Mamela Nyamza, in Pest Control, has invented herself incredibly as a dancer and choreographer in the digital space, and she is one to watch,” she said.