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!