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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Arts Festivals, Craft Markets and Cultural Events Guide : South African Tourist Attractions

From theatre to dance, opera to cabaret, fine art to craft art, classical music to jazz, poetry readings to lectures, every art form is well represented in all South Africa's cities and larges towns. The growing range of arts festivals around South Africa offers visitors the opportunity to combine their pursuit of culture with sightseeing, wine tasting, beach visits, wildlife viewing, history, palaeoanthropology and relaxing in some of South Africa's most beautiful spots.

South African Arts Festivals:

Showcasing Southern African talent in all arts disciplines, the Grahamstown National Arts Festival is Africa's largest and most colorful cultural event. The festival is held annually in July in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, and offers a choice of the very best of both indigenous and imported talent.

One of South Africa's first festivals, the Spashy Fen Music Festival, is held annually near to the small country town of Underberg in the Southern Drakensberg Region of KwaZulu Natal.

The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees is a vibrant festival for the performing arts, presented predominantly, but not exclusively, in Afrikaans. The festival is held annually in Oudtshoorn in the first quarter of the year. Primary disciplines include: drama, cabaret and contemporary and classical music. The festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2004.

Another inherently Afrikaans festival, Aardklop, is held annually in Potchefstroom in the North West Province of South Africa. The festival provides a platform for the creativity and talent of local artists.

The Arts Alive International Festival, is the City of Johannesburg's annual festival of music, dance, theatre and performance-poetry.

The Mangaung Cultural Festival (Macufe) is fast gaining the status of being one of the biggest cultural tourism events in Southern Africa -- the festival attracted 130 000 people in 2003!

Other well-known festivals that attract visitors at both national and international level are Port St Johns Festival, Oppikoppi, Calabash, The One City Festival, and the Awesome Africa Music Festival in Durban; the North Sea Jazz Festival, and the Morgan's Bay Festival.

The State Theatre in Pretoria is renowned for its performing arts.

South African Art Galleries:

Art galleries, which showcase collections of indigenous, historical and contemporary works, are found in all South Africa's major cities -- examples include: Stellenbosch Art and Culture in the Western Cape; Helen Martin's Owl House in Nieu Bethesda, Eastern Cape; the Johannesburg Art Gallery in Gauteng; the Durban Art Gallery in KwaZulu-Natal; and the King George VI Gallery in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.

Traditional Arts & Crafts Markets:

Found on various tourist routes throughout South Africa, and in all the main cities, Art & Craft Markets sell variety of African and other crafts. Many of the traditional crafts and artworks can be purchased at excellent prices.

One of the great joys of travelling is collecting souvenirs unique to the country you're visiting. Years later it allows you to relive the sights, sound and smells of the places and people you encountered.

South Africa is exceptionally rich in talented crafters, but when confronted with an array of creative carvings, weavings or sculptures at a city market I often find myself slightly sceptical at how 'original' it all really is. Was it made locally by a talented crafter or simply mass produced in a factory in Zimbabwe, Tanzania or Nigeria?

That's precisely the problem that the Due South Craft Route company, a member of Proudly South African, is hoping to solve with the pubication of the 'Travel Guide to South African Craft Sites'.

Acccording to Due South there are 1.5 million crafters across South Africa and the publication of the guide is an attempt to promote and support the local crafters producing distinctly South African products.

Divided up into nine chapters according to province, the guide details who the crafters are, where they are based as well as what it is they are actually producing. From community projects and missionary crafters to 'one man' operations and disabled crafters, it's an excellent guide to the vast pool of talent that exists in South Africa.

Realising that people are unlikely to only visit the crafters in a particular area, the guide also provides useful, but brief, information on other attractions in the immediate area as well as a few suggestions of places to stay. Each chapter is preceded by an interesting introduction to the history and culture of the province, and the blank page in each section for 'Traveller's Notes' is a thoughtful inclusion.

South African Music:

Having nurtured the development of an array of distinctive styles of local music, South Africa has contributed significantly to music heard on the African continent and internationally. Music in South Africa is characterised by its fusion of diverse musical forms.

These styles range from South African jazz, which describes a range of music from early marabi-inspired sounds in the late-1930s and 1940s by bands like the Marry Blackbirds Orchestra, to current performers such as trumpeter Hugh Masekela.

Kwaito music is also very popular. Kwaito combines elements of rap, reggae, hip-hop and other musical styles into a distinctly South African style.

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