Writing Art History Since 2002

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The Covid-19 pandemic put much strain on the entire country including adverse effects on our local fraternity of artists.

The winners of the Standard Bank Young Artists Awrd 2021.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Thando Doni, Buhlebezwe Siwani, Kristi-Leigh Gresser, Cara Stacey, Gavin Krastin, Vuma Levin.

The National Arts Festival (NAF) has returned to provide some much-needed celebration for these custodians of the arts. The town of Makhanda is primed for what is to be an 11-day spectacle and the first physical festival since the start of the pandemic. 

A full program will be on display this year with the tradition of showcasing talent from around the country and the continent will maintained. Boasting over 290 productions, Standard Bank is once again proud to be investing in this showcase of artistic excellence. This year the NAF and Standard Bank have adopted the motif #Greatnesswithin which the line-up of talent has taken to with a tenacious determination. 

With the past two years of virtual festivities, people are once again being welcomed to Makhanda to revel in the simple serenity that can be found in this town, and the wealth of expression and passion that is housed within one of the most extensive festival programmes in Africa.

For the past 37 years the partnership between the NAF and Standard Bank has demonstrated the many benefits between the private sector and the arts. One example is the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards (SBYA) which promotes progression and innovation in a manner that can sustain the continued growth of local art. More than 160 artists have been recognised since the first SBYA award in 1981, and the alumni of the programme have
helped shape South Africa’s arts landscape.

The palpable anticipation before curtain call, the constant buzz that inhabits festival venues across the city as well as the banter enjoyed after a production or at the many eateries and watering holes, will once again be enjoyed-with many of these moments fuelled by the artful presentations of the SBYA award winners who all embody this year’s outlook to #Seethegreatnesswithin.

The 2021 list of SBYA winners will all debut new work at this year’s festival: Kristi-Leigh Gresse (Dance), Vuma Levin (Jazz), Buhlebezwe Siwani (Visual Art), Cara Stacey (Music), Gavin Krastin (Performance Art) and Thando Doni (Theatre).

“For almost 40 years, Standard Bank has demonstrated its commitment to the arts by investing in the dreams and lives of artists and continues to find innovative ways to celebrate and showcase the talents within our borders,” said Desire Pooe, Head of Sponsorship at Standard Bank.

“The SBYA recipients have produced work that captures the zeitgeist. They are bold and unapologetic in their creativity, as they train their gaze on making sense of the here and now.” 

From the graceful movements of the seasoned dancer and choreographer Kristi-Leigh Gresse to the trained rhythms of Vuma Levin’s entrancing jazz and the visual feast provided by the works of Buhlebezwe Siwani along with the harmonious melodies provided by Cara Stacey – the 2021 SBYA award winners are poised to impress and thrill. Gavin Krastin’s latest production 12 Labours is an interdisciplinary performance piece, consisting of twelve individual performative acts and public community interventions. Thando Doni’s production, Ngqawuse, makes use of aesthetic inspiration from African rituals, music, songs, and dance, and seeks to question the decisions we have been led to believe we made in the past, exploring how those decisions affect us presently. “The esteemed alumni of the SBYA programme have gone on to weave their creativity into the tapestry that is South Africa’s Artscape,” adds Pooe.

This year’s five winners join the ranks of the SBYA alumni that include monumental figures like Janni Younge (2010) and Andrew Buckland (1986), Lara Foot (1996), Chuma Sopotela (2018) and Benjamin Jephta (2017), all of whom Standard Bank and NAF are excited to welcome to the festival this year, where they will lend their talents to reveal and #Greatnesswithin.

There will also be a formidable online program specifically curated to cater for all those who can’t visit Makhanda this year and tickets can be purchased on the National Arts Festival website. The festival will run from Thursday June 23 to Sunday July 3.

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