South Africans love to celebrate and in order to share their celebrations with friends, family, neighbors and visitors, a number of festivals have been established throughout the country.
From literary and oyster festivals to festivals celebrating music and holidays, there’s no shortage of the type of fun and excitement that appeals to everyone, from online casino players to nature lovers.
Some of South Africa’s most inspiring and energetic festivals include:
Grahamstown National Arts Festival
The annual Grahamstown National Arts Festival is South Africa’s biggest and best-known arts festival. The celebration to South African art is spread out over 11days and 60 venues (such as theatres, churches, schools) as well as in various outdoor locations for the street performances. It takes place in Grahamstown (also known as Makhanda) which is located in the center of the country.
There are two programs, a main program and a fringe program. Each is designed to celebrate all genres and styles of art — everything from visual art to music, film, theater and dance. There are lectures and workshops by experts in their fields plus cultural exhibitions and a music festival.
The Grahamstown National Arts Festival is held in June/July 2020 each year.
The Kaapse Klopse Cape Town Minstrel Carnival takes place in January in Cape Town. It includes the Tweede Nuwe Jaar Minstrel Parade when bands parade through the streets, decked out in paint, color and glitter. The groups perform during the parade
Each group performs its own music so as each group passes, bystanders get another show, each in the individual style of that specific band. The groups are spaced so one band’s music doesn’t drown out the music of another band Each band’s “yoorlopertjies” lead the way with extravagant dance moves.
The festival’s origins date back to the early days of European settlement in South Africa when slaves were given January 2nd as a free day. While the masters were sleeping off New Year’s the slaves were free to use the day for self-expression and revelry through song and dance throughout the streets. Some say that the face paint was a way for the slaves to hide their faces so that their masters couldn’t identify them as they made fun of the slave owners.
Parade observers are directed to the Tweede Nuwe Jaar to watch the troupes march from Keizersgracht Street, in Zonnebloem, through Darling and Adderley Sreets. The parade them moves up Wale Street to finish on Rose Street in the historic Bo-Kaap section of town The parade is free to watch but it gets crowded so come early to get the best spot.;
Up the Creek Festival
The Up the Creek Festival is a relatively new festival but it’s quickly becoming a sell-out event – only 2500 tickets are available to the outdoor fest that’s set on the banks of the Breede River in the |Western Cape outside Swellendam. Festival-goers are treated to a four-day celebration with great music and delicious food, all in a relaxed atmosphere of fellow music lovers. .
The festival features a wide variety of music genres including those of The Black Cat Bones, Francois van Coke, Amy Ayanda, The Kiffness and many more.
Every May, Swaziland (technically, not South Africa but close) hosts the Bushfire Festival, a celebration of the region’s music and arts. Swaziland is located about 4 hours from Johannesburg and festival-goers can come for 1 day or for the whole festival.
Performers include artists from all over Africa – from Kenya to Swaziland, South Africa, Reunion Island and even Germany. There are four stages – the Main Stage, the Barn, the Ampitheatre and the Firefly, each with its own feel. Once you buy your ticket you can wander from stage to stage or just stick to the one that suits you best.
Standout performers from past years include Lindigo (Reunion Island), Mandla Mlangeni (South Africa) , Alibombo (Colombia), Eme & Moonchild (Nigeria, South Africa), Dobet Gnahoré (Cote d’Ivoire), Granmah (Mozambique), Maia and the Big Sky (Kenya), and Meute (Germany).
People who want to rough it a bit will find camping facilities on-site but for those who want to stay over in more comfortable accommodations, hotels are accessible.
Afropunk Festival – Johannesburg
Afro-punk refers to the participation of African Americans and other black people in punk and alternative subcultures. The movement is worldwide and is observed in Johannesburg with a festival of rhythm, color and punk culture.
Afropunk festivals have been running in New York, London, Paris and Atlanta for a number of years. Now the Afropunk movement has landed in Africa to embrace of a form of Afro-Futurism. The festival is held in December and features festival-goers dressed in experimental fashions as well as plain old Western dress. It’s become a global brand that rejects ableism, homophobia, racism and sexism.
The first Afropunk festival has its roots in Brooklyn where people of color who felt left out by mainstream black entertainment and pop culture could express themselves openly. In addition to the yearly festival AfroPunk maintains its status as a movement through online content and community projects.
Some people see AfroPunk as just another music festival that tries to promote multiculturalism while attracting black consumers. In Johannesburg, artists including Anderson .Paak and Solange Knowles share the stage with South African musicians including Nakhane Touré, indie British singer Laura Mvula of the UK and Siyabonga Mthembu of The Brother Moves On. The festival seeis itself as creating a place that allows black artists to play a role in modern global black culture.
Cape Town International Jazz Festival
The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, now preparing for its 21st year, is the largest music event in sub-Saharan Africa. The 2-day festival is held every March and attracts upwards of 37,000 attendees. The festival is famous for its star-studded line up of local and international artists which have included, in the past, Shekhinah, Chaka Khan, Moonchild, Eliane Elias and The Lady Day Big Band.
Every year over 40 South African and international artists perform on multiple stages over 2 nights.