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