national Arts Festival Banner

Sunday, September 5, 2021


A Cohort of Fierce Innovators

The 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists were announced on September 2, 2021, in a vibrant online awards event that set the tone for a year of creative activity. Founded in 1981, the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards have become a touchstone for South Africa’s most promising artists with many of the Awards’ alumni enjoying local and international success. The recognition that comes with the Awards carries weight with international arts institutions, funders and the public alike. Each artist will receive a cash incentive, as well as a commission to premiere a new work or exhibition at the 2022 National Arts Festival.

The 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists are:

(Right: Thando Doni)

Thando Doni

2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre

Although based in the Western Cape, 35-year old Thando considers the Eastern Cape his cultural and aesthetic home. He has worked extensively with Magnet Theatre but has also worked with the Actors Voice Theatre Company, Masibambisane Youth Theatre Organisation, Emlanjeni Theatre Productions, and the Manyanani Entertainers. Doni is a resident actor at Bonfire Theatre Company.

Says National Arts Festival Artistic Committee member for theatre, Caroline Calburn:

“Thando is a remarkable theatre maker who, without fail, creates magic regardless of who he is working with. He is one of the rare theatre makers who works across the board – from young people through to ex-offenders and professional performers. His ability to craft theatrical experiences that are profound and profoundly moving is singular. One is changed after watching a performance created by Thando. And often the lives of his performers are changed for the better too. He is dogged, works in the harshest of conditions, but his passion for the work and for the people he works with puts him right up there along with the best.”

(Left: Cara Stacey)

Cara Stacey

2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Music

Gauteng-born Cara Stacey is trained in both the piano and the southern African musical bow (umrhubhe, uhadi, and makhweyane). In addition to being a composer and performer, she is a musicologist and scholar who holds a Ph D and is a Senior Lecturer in African Music at North-West University.

“Be it in recordings, arrangements, performances, or workshops, Cara’s work is rich and complex and at the same time beautifully accessible. She is a trailblazer for connecting different histories and forms of sound, and making them more than the sum of their parts,” remarks Artistic Committee member for music, James Webb.

(Right: Kristi-Leigh Gresse)

Kristi-Leigh Gresse

2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance

Kristi-Leigh is a graduate of The University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard College) and is from the province. She has performed extensively locally and internationally with a number of local choreographers and directors including Lliane Loots, Jay Pather, Sean Bovim, Mandla Sunnyboy Motau Ntuli, Warona Seane, Lulu Mlangeni and Lyanda Sidiya and others. In 2018, Kristi-Leigh won a Standard Bank Gold Ovation Award for her production Sullied at the National Arts Festival. As a result, Sullied has also been staged at The Brighton Fringe festival as part of the Pebble Trust: International Touring Bursary, and went on to win the South East Dance Award at the festival in 2019.

“Working with a long list of influential arts practitioners has provided Kristi-Leigh with a base to explore her own identity as an artist. Kristi-Leigh’s work has mostly become centred around the politics of the body and identity. Her work is arresting and her work ethic is formidable,” says Artistic Committee member for dance, David April.

(Left: Buhlebezwe Siwani)

Buhlebezwe Siwani

2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art

Raised in Johannesburg, Buhlebezwe has always enjoyed a nomadic existence having also lived in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. She completed postgraduate degrees at the Wits School of Arts and the Michaelis School of Fine Arts. Following residencies in France, Switzerland and the Netherlands, her work has been exhibited from Europe to Asia and Australasia to America. She has also published two books, Imfihlo (2015) and Qab’Imbola (2018). Buhlebezwe lives in Amsterdam and Cape Town.

Says Artistic Committee member for Visual Arts, Vulindlela Nyoni: “At 34, Buhlebezwe has paved a path for artists through her work with healing and spirit. Articulating work that is highly contemporary and relevant, Buhlebezwe has a versatility across mediums working across film, the body, and more typical gallery presentations, a versatility much-needed in these ever-shifting times.”

(Right: Gavin Krastin)

Gavin Krastin

2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Performance Art

Gavin Krastin is a South African performance artist, live artist, scenographer and arts educator. He is Makhanda-based and his work spans the worlds of theatre, visual arts and contemporary performance. Gavin's interests lie in the permeability and politics of the body’s representation, limitation and operation in alternative, layered spaces. His practice is inspired by his immediate South African environment and one’s positionality and transgression in the history embedded in its shifting socio-political landscape within a global-local framework.

Krastin is a regular performer and mentor of work at the National Arts Festival, NAF Artistic Director Rucera Seethal notes that he is “a mindful, risky and brave artist who works with extremity, is meticulous, and has really opened the door for a next generation of performance artists, revitalising the field.”

(Left: Vuma Levin)

Vuma Levin

2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz

Levin is a guitarist whose compositions combine South African musical traditions with jazz, pop and electronics. He has lived and worked in Madrid, Amsterdam, Basel and Johannesburg. After teaching at various conservatoriums in the Netherlands, he returned to South Africa to take up a lecturing post at the University of the Witwatersrand. He has produced four studio albums to date, and his latest – the concept album Antique Spoons, which was also accompanied by the release of three short films – has been critically acclaimed for its virtuosity.

“Vuma is a very accomplished musician who is comfortable in a wide array of musical styles and has impressive technical ability on the guitar. His explorations of music, culture and identity intersect in unique ways and his original compositions are both complex and listenable. He has carved a genuine path of musical integrity for himself in the competitive European jazz scene and is taking South African jazz in unusual new directions,” says Artistic Committee Member for Jazz, Alan Webster.


Works presented by the 2021 Standard Bank Young Artists will be announced with the National Arts Festival programme in 2022.

Message from the festival organisers:

Take the #NAF2021 Survey

If you watched the 2021 National Arts Festival, please let us know what you thought by taking our 5 minute survey. Conducted on behalf of the NAF by Rhodes University, this ongoing research forms a vital part of how we plan and reimagine our future Festivals.

If you leave your email when you complete the survey (it will register seperately to your survey answers) you'll also be entered into the draw to win a National Arts Festival goodie box.



Please note the survey closes on Friday September 10, 2021.

Our mailing address is: