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Tuesday, May 24, 2022


(Scene from “seven ways to say goodbye” - image by Val Adamson)

Stories of turbulence, healing and triumph thread through this year’s programme as the National Arts Festival returns to Makhanda and a live festival format from June 23 – July 3, 2022.

(Left: Scene from “Hamlet”)

Janni Younge may have returned to the classics for her new production of Hamlet, but the deep conflicts of Shakespeare's central character receive a powerful contemporary treatment through life size puppets. The cast is grounded in the formidable presence of Andrew Buckland, who takes the role of Claudius, and the costumes are simple, humble but almost spectral as they float around the puppets.

2011 Standard Bank Young Artist winner, Neil Coppen and acclaimed actress, Mpume Mthombeni present the powerful new one-woman tour de force Isidlamlilo! (The Fire Eater). With elements of Zulu folklore, biblical mythology, magical-realist framings of South Africa, as well as humour and pathos, the piece relays the dizzying and death-defying life story of Zenzile Maseko. Maseko, a sixty-something Zulu grandmother, who rents a cramped room in a Durban’s women's hostel, is haunted by her past as an IFP assassin (fire-eater) in the build-up to the 1994 elections. When Home Affairs mistakenly declares her dead, Zenzile finds herself cast into the middle of a Kafkaesque nightmare, driven to desperate measures to prove she still alive and, in the process, reawakening parts of her identity and past that she has spent a majority of her adult life trying to suppress.

(Right: Mpume Mthombeni - in “Isidlamilo!” (The Fire Eater).)

2021 Standard Bank Young Artist for Visual Art, Buhlebezwe Siwani’s Iyeza is a deeply reverent exploration of the healing power of plants at a moment where people across the globe are reconsidering their relationships with the plant world. Drawing on ancient indigenous connections to the natural world and asking questions of our tendency to take its rich bounty for granted, Buhlebezwe’s own journey to heeding her ancestral calling of ubungoma, the ancient African healing tradition runs parallel to this piece. The work unfolds through a residency beginning in Makhanda in early May.

Flatfoot Dance Company’s seven ways to say goodbye emerged as we struggled to transform isolation into community after the heavy COVID lockdown. Birthed shortly after the 2021 violence and looting in KwaZulu-Natal, it's a journal that echoes the early pillow books of Japan’s Sei Shonagon as it lists ‘seven ways to say goodbye.’

Stepping into the heartland, choreographer Lliane Loots has taken eight dancers through a journey that asks them (and the audience) to confront the sticky, and sometimes porous relationship, we have to endings and partings. A display of gravity-defying dance and embodied story telling of the intimate and the holy, seven ways to say goodbye is a celebration of all that is sacred and beautiful.

(Left: Gabi Motuba appears in “The Sabbath”)

The Sabbath is a series of compositions written for string quartet by jazz singer and composer Gabi Motuba. A very personal project for Motuba, The Sabbath was created in 2020, when the pandemic was at its peak and news of loved ones perishing in a matter of days formed the backdrop to the work. Not only does the series attempt to think through a violent past and the complexities of present encounters, it also seeks to be a sanctuary for those attempting to come to terms with great tragedy.

(Right: Thandeka Mfinyongo

Another musical work that is a catharsis for healing, Ingoduko gives a 'voice' to the Xhosa indigenous instruments uhadi and umrhubhe. Presented by Cape Town born, and internationally trained, musician Thandeka Mfinyongo, Ingoduko honours and preserves indigenous music for a new generation but also calls for a cultural homecoming and healing.

Masicule is the flagship annual celebration of the voices of Makhanda and beyond. Now in its 9th year, the mass choirs were led by the inimitable Sibongile Ngoma who was the Masicule 2022 Guest Artist.

If you weren't able to be there, the NAF is proud to present a premium recording of Masicule 2022 with a live audience, as it took place on March 14, 2022, in the Guy Butler Theatre in Makhanda.

The concert is free to view but, each year, Masicule identifies a promising individual to be the recipient of a financial gift towards their formal study in music. Help us continue to grow this fund by donating to the Masicule Gift Fund.


These shows are just some of the plays, performances, exhibitions, installations and concerts on the 2022 National Arts Festival programme. The full 2022 National Arts Festival programme will be released via and visitors will also be able to buy tickets online.

Head to Makana Tourism to book your accommodation soonest and consider extending your stay in the Eastern Cape too, for ideas and bookings go to