Henriette Loubser

Editor-in-Chief, Netwerk24

Pandemic or not, the arts need to be celebrated! After all, artists are some of the most creative souls of society, and one thing our current situation has imprinted on us is that we need to think outside of the box. One way or the other, we have all been jolted from our comfort zones.

 The arts exist within a zeitgeist and therefore, this year especially, it will be interesting to see what the creators bring to the table. Through books, music, artworks, and other art forms, society makes sense of its “journey”: Where do we find ourselves and who or what are we exactly? Which emotions and questions make us turn and toss? What makes us laugh, and what makes us bitter? Where are our shortcomings, and which blind spots and prejudices do we need to re-examine?

 On the one hand, art is a mirror occasionally confronting us with uncomfortable sensations. On the other hand, it proves a unique opportunity to enter into conversation with ourselves and each other – in ways which are not always possible using conventional conversations.
 At Netwerk24 we are particularly excited by the Snelstroom online offerings that we will be part of. The successes of 2020, which even led to nominations for the kykNET Fiësta and Naledi awards, have shown us that this new model for festivities is in line with our constant work towards a new model for the media.

 The Free State and Northern Cape are important regions for Netwerk24 readers. We employ a vigilant editorial team in the region to provide Volksblad with news copy, to keep us at the forefront of the news realm, and to ensure that the digital newspaper is just as enthralling as the printed format was. By supporting the Vrystaat Arts Festival, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to the region and its people. We are looking forward to joining you in celebrating the festivities!

Ishmet Davidson

Executive head: Media24

Media24 is a proud supporter of the arts, which, particularly in these unusual times we live in, proves to be a beacon of hope and inspiration. For the past twenty years, the annual Vrystaat Arts Festival and journey to the City of Roses have been a highlight on the calendar of many a festivalgoer. When stages and festival tents became empty due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisers, despite many challenges, quickly made plans to keep the festive fires burning.

Thank you to all the organisers and artists who have been impacted severely by the pandemic, for working so fervently to keep the arts alive. Thank you for providing us with inspiration, hope, and an escape by making it possible for us to still attend shows and now from the comfort of our homes.

As usual, the festival offers something for everyone – drama, comedy, musical and dance theatre, visual and word art. Make sure you buy your virtual tickets and enjoy this festival like no other.

Dr. Geraldine Reymenants

General Representative of the Government of Flanders

The Diplomatic Representation of Flanders is honoured to support the Vrystaat Arts Festival 2021, which celebrates its twenty-first birthday this year. Twenty-one is traditionally a significant landmark that symbolises coming of age, independence, and embarking on the adult journey of life. In many unforeseen ways, this has applied to the Vrystaat Arts Festival over the past year. Although the festival has always enjoyed an independent spirit and ethos, it has had to “grow up” fast due to the global Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and social distancing measures have posed immense challenges to society and the economy, and the cultural sector was one of those most severely affected. However, the Vrystaat Arts Festival has immediately and undauntedly embarked on a new journey and has found ways to use digital outlets and other innovative platforms to keep up the momentum and spirit of the Festival, while at the same time supporting South Africa’s artists.

Flanders remains committed to our partnership with the Festival, now and in the future. We were delighted that digital platforms allowed for the Flemish Week to be held in April this year as part of the Vrystaat Literature Festival. This week of inspiring literary conversations between South African and Flemish writers was supported by Flanders Literature, thereby continuing their close partnership with the Vrystaat Literature Festival. Literary exchange and co-creation will be at the core of a new project, Schrijvers-werf, bringing together writers from the Netherlands, Flanders, Suriname, and other Dutch-speaking countries, with colleagues from South Africa and Namibia. We also look forward to the long-awaited première of Island of Future Dreams – a co-production between Flanders, the Netherlands, and South Africa – as soon as feasible.

This year’s festival theme, Young at Art, fits well with our own motto “Flanders, State of the Art”. Both speak to a desire for adventure, exploration, celebration, and meaningful expression. And meaningful expression for artists is to perform, exhibit, recite, dance, and sing to live audiences. Meaningful expression for audiences is equally to experience artistic evocation in person. We are therefore thrilled that the Vrystaat Arts Festival is taking place, in physical form. We take this opportunity to wish all those involved a very happy twenty-first birthday, which we look forward to celebrating with you!

Cornelia Faasen

Chief Executive Officer: National Theatre initiative

The Vrystaat Arts Festival this year again does what it does best delivering a potpourri of plans, ideas, platforms, styles, disciplines, and genres. And NATi is excited and proud to once again be part of these celebrations.

Over the past few years, the Vrystaat Arts Festival has also gained a wonderful reputation as a home for young and experimental artists to practise their craft. The festival goes out of its way to search for young talent from near and far and also to work allogamous with the different platforms the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to embrace. Something they do with enthusiasm and grace.It is hardly necessary to emphasise the challenges posed for the theatre and festival community during the past 18 months. However, the Vrystaat Arts Festival confronted it point-blank by presenting projects and productions that not only give hope but, more importantly, also create job opportunities for artists. We salute the Vrystaat Arts Festival for their courage and the focus falling this year on Free State artists promises to deliver a hotchpotch of challenging, creative, and boundary-shifting work.

Corneli van den Berg

Director of the Vrystaat Arts Festival

Congratulations to the Vrystaat Arts Festival for celebrating its 21st birthday this year!

We celebrate this exceptional milestone with the theme “Young at Art”. The festival has grown and developed in wide-ranging and diverse ways over the previous 21 years and has undergone various transformations. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has not made it possible for us to host the festival for the past two years, the core of this winter festival, with its superb arts and crafts market, excellent theatre-music-and-dance productions, and visual art exhibitions, is in many ways still the same. The heart, atmosphere, and character of this Free State-based festival continues and thrives.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, it is still not possible to host a physical arts festival. We had to quickly adapt due to the pandemic and we developed several successful online initiatives.

A key initiative that we continue this year, and one that we are very excited about, is our Snelstroom programme. Snelstroom, which is further divided into the Hoofstroom and Vrystroom programmes, involves our online artistic programme and includes all kinds of digital offerings.

The arts festival presented an exciting capacity development initiative, the Creative Practices Laboratory, earlier this year in collaboration with the Nasionale Afrikaanse Teater-inisiatief (NATi). The Laboratory provided Free State artists and creative practitioners with the opportunity to develop experimental and interdisciplinary art-in-performance practices.

Since March, the Vrystaat Literature Festival has been in full swing, presenting captivating book and poetry conversations, including a Flemish week in collaboration with Literature Flanders and the General Representative of the Flemish Government in Southern Africa. Feel free to visit the newly created literature festival group on Facebook to stay up to date with all manner of book activities.

Another festival initiative, PACE, the Pan-African Creative Exchange, will also host an online Laboratory this year: the PACE+ Dramaturgical Laboratory, supported by the Dutch Embassy in South Africa. Another exciting online workshop that the arts festival launched this year is Telematic 360 – a project developed for the festival’s Pan-African Telematic Art Project, or PATAP, and generously supported by the National Arts Council.

Later this year we will present the second installment of the mini classical music festival, Vrystaat Klank en Klassiek. Bloemfontein local, as well as national classical musicians, will participate in this programme. Keep an eye on the press and our website and social media platforms for more information.

In close collaboration with the arts festival’s customary arts and crafts market, the festival nowadays also has an online store, the Wolkewinkel, where all kinds of handmade products are for sale throughout the year. Feel free to support our Wolkewinkel and find all the delightful products for sale at the art market, all in one place and easily accessible from the comfort of your living room.

My sincerest gratitude to all the sponsors and donors of the Vrystaat Arts Festival who have made it possible to present this remarkable and innovative festival in the heart of the Free State for the past 21 years. Many, many thanks to Media24, our founding sponsor, and Netwerk24 and the University of the Free State as festival partners, and all the arts festival’s programme partners, and countless collaborative project partners.

And to every festival attendee who has supported us over the past 21 years – I salute you and I invite you to the next 21 years!

Prof. Francis W. Petersen

Vice-Chancellor, University of the Free State

As one of the top festivals in our country, the Vrystaat Arts Festival proved its resilience and commitment to the arts during the disruptive COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, it has given artists the confidence to continue creating, albeit in alternative formats. Throughout the history of mankind, art has remained a voice of society – reflecting on our different realities. Although we have faced the same pandemic globally, we have had vastly varied experiences across nations and cultures. In celebrating its 21st year, the Vrystaat Arts Festival once again offers a platform for creativity and thought.

The University of the Free State (UFS) is exceptionally proud to remain part of the festival, as we have celebrated numerous accomplishments in the field of art in the past year. We have seen lecturers receive accolades for visual and written works, and one even topped the popular music charts. As always, we will continue to support and encourage creative expression via different mediums.

Courageously, the festival is offering both real-life performances and events adhering to COVID-19 protocols this year, with the addition of an online programme. I commend the organisers’ ingenuity and believe that festival-goers will find joy in whichever platform they prefer to attend. Just like last year, the virtual programme not only combines an artistic flair with technology but also allows attendance that may not otherwise have been possible.

Since its inception, the festival has been offering unique and relevant content as part of the programme, and this year will be no different. Attendees will enjoy a diverse range of cultural art forms that will enrich their lives while also providing entertainment.

As always, the UFS will continue to present our Thought-Leader Series as part of the Vrystaat Literature Festival’s online initiative, VrySpraak-digitaal. The aim is to position the university as a thought-leader and as an institution that takes part in public discourse on matters of national concern. The series is presented in the form of webinars throughout the year. This will be the fourth year that the series is presented, and themes so far have included Reimagining Universities for Student Success, Corruption in South Africa: The Endemic Pandemic, and South African politics and the local government elections: scene-setter for a capable state?

Like other years, the planning and presentation of the festival in its adapted format depend on a large number of people working behind the scenes before and during the festival. I commend them all for their commitment to persevere in creating a platform for creativity.

Thank you to the many festival-goers who remain committed to supporting the arts during usual and unusual times. Both the artists and I value your appreciation and attendance.

Kind Kovsie regards

Edward Charles Human

First Nations Ambassador

!Gaitsesa ti khoen, mî re? Ti Ions ge Edward Charles. Ti khaikhoe Ions ge Human. Ti ge Xirika. Tita ge ≠Gῡrokam Khoen. Good day my people, how are you? My name is Edward Charles. My surname is Human. I am a Griqua. I am First Nations.

I would like to acknowledge my First Nations / Khoi-San ancestors and the great leaders that came before me. Leaders such as Autshumatso, David Stuurman, David Kruiper, and Sarah Baartman, to name but a few. On behalf of Captain Johannes Kraalshoek and the Free State Griqua Traditional Council, I welcome you to the Griqua and Koranna territory in the heartland of South Africa, the Free State Province, in Bloemfontein.

I also want to acknowledge Danab ||Hui Gaeb di !Huni !nâ !Gῡkhoeb (Bradley van Sitters) and !Aru |khuisi Piet Berendse for their amazing work during the Welcome to the Country Ceremony, and lastly, I want to acknowledge the vice-chancellor, prof. Francis Peterson, all the delegates from the University of the Free State, and the delegates from the Volksblad newspaper, and other institutions and government sectors.

As First Nations Ambassador, I would like to congratulate the Vrystaat Arts Festival for reaching its 21st year as an art festival in Bloemfontein and South Africa as a whole.

≠Khî(sa) !Naetsē.b Vrystaat Arts Festival / Happy birthday Vrystaat Arts Festival

I have witnessed the growth of the Programme for Innovation in Artform Development (PIAD) within the First Nations Programme during the Festival over the years. We were fortunate to have First Nations artists from Australia, Maori, Tasmania, New Zealand, American arts managers, directors, writers, and local First Nations artists as well.

At the 2019 Festival, we were fortunate to have dancers from the Pakana Kanaplila Troupe and Adὶe Bὰ Lόkùn from Nigeria and the “Rieldanser” from the Khoi-San in the Northern Cape.

The fourth First Nations Colloquium took place in Richmond from 3 to 9 November 2019, bringing together artistic minds from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. It was facilitated by myself and Lee-Ann Tjunypa Bucksin, a Narungga, Wirangu, Wotjobaluk woman, who is well-known throughout the Australian indigenous and international art communities. The focus areas for the Colloquium was:

  • Reflecting on creative works and engagement with First Nations artistic practices locally and internationally.
  • The advocacy of First Nations expression through indigenous language, arts, and cultural practices.
  • Societal dynamics and challenges that relate to First Nations communities and their expression through creative work.

Sadly everything came to a halt in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic but 2020 has also brought a great new vision for the First Nations (Khoi-San) in South Africa. This came in the form of Proclamation No. 38 of 2020 by the President of South Africa, the commence of the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act, 2019 (Act No. 3 of 2019), that gives constitutional recognition to the Khoi-San in South Africa. This achievement comes after 29 years of hard work by our elders and it will hopefully open various doors such as land restitution, and Khoi-San language development and promotion within our education system. With the successful negotiations regarding Rooibos Tea, we the Khoi-San have reached a benefit sharing with the major stakeholders in the industry.

We as the First Nations wish to congratulate Corneli van den Berg as the newly appointed Director of the Vrystaat Arts Festival and we also want to thank dr. Ricardo Peach for allowing us to grow as First Nations also as artists in unity. As First Nations, we are very privileged to be part of this festival once again and we know that it will only grow from strength to strength.

Happy birthday Vrystaat Arts Festival. / ≠Khî(sa) !Naetsē.b Vrystaat Arts Festival.


De Villiers Brink

Chair: Vrystaat Kunstefees/Arts Festival/Tsa-Botjhaba

You are cordially invited to fasten your seat belt for October’s Snelstroom Programme that will keep you constantly surprised and excited. The Vrystaat Arts Festival’s production team has outdone themselves and you will reap the rewards! Enjoy every moment.