Highlights from the Cape Town Arts Festival


Group category = Elevation Dance Crew Fatima Chohan Deputy Chair of the Human Rights Commission.


Cape Town – Th+e Cape Town Arts Festival (CTAF) has once again lived up to its name of giving emerging artists and performers a platform to display their unique talents. The free, family-fun extravaganza, held at the Castle of Good Hope, was a moving, insightful, and joyful celebration of the human spirit.

Formerly known as the Cape Town Festival, the Cape Town Arts Festival has evolved into a 12-month all-encompassing initiative featuring projects and a variety of innovative training programmes, the pinnacle of which is the annual CTAF at the Castle of Good Hope. 

In its current form, the CTAF is a celebration showcasing a vibrant line-up of music, busking, poetry, Zumba, yoga, Tai Chi, live painting, live sculpting, a wellness and food market, and a Cape craft exhibition. Renowned local musicians, including headliners YoungstaCPT, Dee Koala, DJ Ready D, Bongani Shotshononda and Candice Thornton, joined top buskers showcasing their skill.

The festival morphed from One City Many Cultures, following the tragic Planet Hollywood Bombings in 1998 at the V&A Waterfront, spearheaded by Ryland Fisher in 1999 to address cultural intolerance and racial violence.

In 2003 Yusuf Ganief became CEO, later initiating the Cape Town Community Festivals from 2004 to 2007, providing significant annual employment opportunities, benefiting over 1800 artists.

The festival expanded, giving rise to brands like Cape Town Community Festivals, Cape Town Performing Arts Festivals, Jou Ma Se Comedy, Local Goes Vocal and Cape Town Youth Festival.

In 2021, Ganief rebranded the Cape Town Festival as the Cape Town Arts Festival, prioritising sustainable artist development through upskilling, nurturing, and dynamic performance platforms.

This year’s edition had an added bonus – the Social Harmony through National Effort (SHiNE) of the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). CTAF commissioned a Gqom dance track for the SHiNE dance challenge, as well as a song that served as the backing track for the dance-off finalists competing in the dance challenge.

The SHiNE Song was composed by the creative director. songwriter and composer for Ariva Arts Foundation, and Gqom afficianodo, Chustar.  The unusual collaboration resonated with the SHiNE message: finding harmony within and without, through positive dialogue and action, while honouring our diversity by learning from each other.

Finalists were taken through their paces by Gqom choreographer, Stoan Galela – known as “Ghetto kid” – a dance teacher in the communities of the Western Cape, who is uplifting children on the streets through his efforts and various dance styles.

And a tough contest it was – with Simamkele Makeleni walking off with top honours in the solo category and Elevation Dance Crew clinching the group category.

Deputy chair of the Human Rights Commission, Fatima Chohan, said: “We are inspired by the creativity of the Cape Town Arts Festival and their ability to translate the message of SHiNE into all genres of the arts. The SHINE song, in particular, will get our citizens dancing and celebrating our country’s rich diversity as we move into the festive season this year”.

Solo Category = Simamkele Makeleni with Fatima Chohan Deputy Chair of the Human Rights Commission

Another highlight this year was the Shine Visual Arts Exhibition, a space for a diverse array of emerging artists to display the full spectrum of artistic mediums. These included ceramics, visual art photography and live installations that allowed emerging, up-and-coming artists an opportunity to debut their works.

In October last year, the Beyond Busking Festival Day at the Castle of Good Hope was added to the events calendar, creating a platform for 425 artists, volunteers, and suppliers. All of the 8 buskers currently on the Beyond Busking programme showed their mettle at this year’s event with original songs produced during the Beyond Busking Programme.

The busking project involves a 12-week intensive programme whereby eight buskers from Cape Town underwent vocal training, stage presence enhancement, life coaching, songwriting, guitar lessons, and music production in high-end studios.

Said CTAF CEO Yusuf Ganief of this year’s offering: “The busker performances were amazing and went beyond busking as per the vision of the Beyond Busking Development Programme. The traditional ceremony curated by iconic Fatime Dike with praise singers, Zulu dancers and traditional choir brought a sacredness and acknowledgement of the past wrongs and the dawn of a new narrative of forgiveness and togetherness as South Africans.”

And there was something for everyone – the Artisans Haven comprised unique vendor stalls displaying their craftmanship and skills which included mime and balloon artists.

The Spoken Word event provided cerebral stimulation for those looking for some introspective entertainment. And festivalgoers were given a treat in the form of a poetry masterclass by the world-renowned Bulelwa Basse.

The Cape Town Arts Festival is made possible through the support of its sponsors: The Department of Sports Arts and Culture, Ariva Arts Foundation NPC, the Western Cape Government, the Castle of Good Hope, the South African Human Rights Commission, and the City of Cape Town.

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