The final curtain at the 2019 National Arts Festival in Makhanda has dropped. The 11-day festival was another success despite the misgivings leading up to it.

There were concerns about the water woes of Makhanda and the constrained economy, but early indications are that more tickets were sold in 2019 than in 2018.

More than 700 productions were on show. From, theatre to dance, from music both classical to contemporary; the arts abounded in every imaginable form. The informal art sector was another big draw card.

The festival had something for everyone.

“We did see quite a lot of shows. We were here for the full week so quite a few repeats, but there was also some very good new shows that we saw the vibe was very good. I think the festival is here to stay.”

Makhana, also known as the city of saints, is in crisis. Water provision in the town is constrained due to a prolonged drought. Coupled with administrative and infrastructure problems, it painted a bleak picture for the festival.

Tony Lankester, The National Arts Festival CEO, says that they are encouraged by the support shown to artists.

“We have been really encouraged to see South Africans coming out and supporting their artists. Going into this festival, we knew we were facing a tough economy obviously; with a lot of narrative with Makhanda going through water woes raised a lot of concern from people. So we were concerned about people staying away and skipping this year. We absolutely did not see that people came out and we wanted to see bums on seats and there has been a lot of bums on seats and saw a lot of sold out shows.”

However, the fun has to end with a closing ceremony celebrating a successful week.

Preparations for 2020’s arts festival are already in full swing.

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