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Arts Festivals You Don’t Want to Miss

Liezl Hesketh in Stories 

Arts Festivals

Arts Festivals You Don’t Want to Miss

Among the many, and we mean many, festivals that South Africa has are the Arts Festivals, some of which are world famous. Here’s what the year holds in store for arts festival lovers across the country.

Although we have tried to get as much accurate information as possible regarding the festivals, please be aware that dates, venues etc. can change. Make sure to check the festival website.

Cape Town Art Fair

When: 17 -19 February
Where: Cape Town
Website: Cape Town Art Fair
What to expect: Each year the festival draws the international art word to Cape Town. It takes place at the same as other top artistic exhibitions in the Mother City. The most widely respected art galleries in Africa have their largest showcases in Cape Town showing a rich and intriguing diversity of work from both established influential artists and emerging ones. Apart from having their work on display the artists give of themselves in interviews, performances and discussions.

FNB Dance Umbrella

When: February/March
Where: Johannesburg
Website: FNB Dance Umbrella
What to expect: Each year the festival presents an extremely wide range of dance performances and workshops. The exciting thing about the festival is the fact that it is a free platform for both local and international artists to introduce their new contemporary choreography and dance. Throughout the 17 days that the festival runs there is an almost continuous celebration of dance, half of the works being commissioned pieces. Street beat is new addition to the festival that allows over ten youth groups to present their Hip, Hop, Pantsula and street dance performance pieces. Student choreographers also have a chance to present their work. The Museum of African Design (MOAD) in Maboneng and the Newtown Precinct have played host to installation pieces as well. The festival has been the launch pad into international dance for many South African choreographers.

Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees

When: April
Where: Oudtshoorn
Website: Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees
What to expect: The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in Oudtshoorn began life as an Afrikaans alternative to the predominantly English National Arts festivals. Up and coming dancers and actors, as well as well-known faces, delight and entertain audiences through over 200 different shows played out on three different stages.


When: April/May
Where: Cape Town
Website: Suidoorsterfees
What to expect: The festival is a showcase for the whole family featuring all the best in Afrikaans poetry, music, art exhibitions, film, drama, comedy. This year was the celebration of twenty years of the Suidoorsterfees. KykNet, who was also celebrating their centenary, held the first ever Afri-Visi Skryf ‘n Treffer Competition in search of the newest song-writing talent in South Africa, based on the EuroVision Contest this was a major first for South Africa. The Eden Drama Festival is part of the Suidoorsterfees and is a fabulous opportunity for up and coming dramatists and actors to present their original stories and talent to the Cape Town public.

The Uplands Festival

When: May 29 – 31
Where: Uplands Preparatory School and College, White River, Mpumalanga
Website: Uplands Festival
What to expect: The Uplands Festival is a community gathering that is basically a mini-me version of the more famous Grahamstown Festival. But it’s not that mini either. Over 14 000 people attend every year to revel in the jazz, the theatre, and the art exhibitions, not to mention the mountain bike challenges, rugby festival that happens at the same time, the equestrian events, the crafts and of course, the beer. The Lowveld, where the school that plays host to the festival is situated, is fast becoming the premier destination for mountain biking so, as you can imagine, the MBT Challenge is hotly contested by some of South Africa’s best cyclists. The festival places a strong emphasis on fun and community.

The South African Book Fair

When: 31 July – 2 August
Where: Turbine Hall, Newtown, Johannesburg
Website: South African Book Fair
What to expect: The Fair has grown dramatically since its early days as the Cape Town Book Fair and this year will be held in Johannesburg. More than 250 exhibitors from over 30 countries will once again take part in the premier literary and publishing platform in Sub-Saharan Africa. The South African Book Fair is the areas’ largest and fastest-growing international book fair bringing together authors, publishers and book enthusiasts in one place. For the book loving public the fair is an unique opportunity to meet renowned South African and African authors and speakers as well as leaders in the publishing industry.

The Grahamstown National Arts Festival

When: 2 – 12 July
Where: Grahamstown, Eastern Cape
Website: National Arts Festival
What to expect: South Africa’s oldest, biggest and most loved festival is the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. In fact, it’s the biggest annual arts festival in Africa. Eleven days of absolute artistic delight with over 500 shows from drama, dance, physical theatre, comedy, opera, music, jazz, visual art exhibitions, film, student theatre, street theatre, lectures, craft fair, workshops. If you go to only one festival this year it should be Grahamstown. Book accommodation, and some shows, early as this normally quiet university town doubles in size – every bed is taken. Every hall, large room, park or sports field becomes a stage or a marketplace. Huge numbers of people flock to see both the Main and Fringe programme.

36th Durban International Film Festival

When: 16 – 26 July
Where: Durban, KZN
Website: Durban Film Festival
What to expect: The Durban International Film Festival is the longest running film festival in South Africa. Showings of over 250 feature films, short films and documentaries, all with a strong focus on South African and African cinema as well as workshops and seminars take place over the ten days. International filmmakers also exhibit their work. Film industry experts will head up the workshops and seminars.

Vrystaat Kunstefees

When: 13 – 18 July
Where: Bloemfontein, Freestate
Website: Vrystaat Kunstefees
What to expect: Dance, music, drama, comedy, film, storytelling, children’s theatre and visual arts and a market are just some of the delights of this Afrikaans festival. For the past 12 years this Freestate festival has showcased emerging and big name artists and actors from all over South Africa.

Arts Alive International Festival

When: 31 August – 10 September
Where: Johannesburg
Website: Arts Alive Festival
What to expect: This festival celebrates the very best in home-grown theatre, dance, music, visual art and general entertainment throughout various venues in and around Johannesburg. This year there will be the showbiz, entertainment, arts and fashion exhibitions, drama, dance, music and business mentorships. Over 600 artists perform with headline international superstars.

Finding Accommodation

And if you’re needing accommodation while you’re attending any of the festivals don’t forget to visit TheRoomLink as we have the best temporary and permanent accommodation available on line. If you’re a landlord register with us now!