Uniting Southern Africa in arts: Kalahari Arts and Heritage Festival gears up for third exciting edition

Several performers mainly from the Khoi and San communities in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia are set to showcase their rich talent at the third edition of the annual Kalahari Arts and Heritage Festival.

Around 20 short films made by ambitious, first-time filmmakers from within the marginalised Khoi and San communities in the Kalahari Desert will feature in the broader programme of this year’s third annual Kalahari Arts and Heritage Festival (KAHF).

The extravaganza will explode into life once again, at the peak of summer, at the end of this month.

Taking place from January 24-27, for the first time, the event will be hosted in Philandersbron in the Northern Cape, one of the Khoi and San communities located on the margins of South Africa’s international borders with sisterly neighbouring countries Namibia and Botswana.

Festival director, Helena Steenkamp said in the last two editions, the much-anticipated festival has conveyed untold stories of culture, customs of the Khoi and San people through song, dance, art exhibitions, film screenings and workshops.

“We are thrilled that this festival is becoming a cultural benchmark for the Khoi and San,” she said.

“KAHF is not only a platform for exhibiting and retaining the Khoi and San culture, but a living memory and archive for where humanity comes from.”

Steenkamp added that the arts extravaganza has become an annual event which everyone looks forward to in the Kalahari.

The event brings various communities together around the Northern Cape and other provinces of South Africa, where they mingle and dance alongside citizens of Botswana and Namibia.

The festival will attract participants from surrounding Khoi and San communities in Northern Cape including Platfontein, Loubos, Rietfontein, Mier, Andriesvale, Askham and those.

Players with the arts industry are given a rare opportunity to showcase their rich talents and expressions through song, dance and other initiatives.

An initiative of the Africa Human Rights Film Festival, KAHF employs the arts to generate robust debate, empower citizens, raise awareness and promote the respect for human rights in marginalised communities.

According to Steenkamp, in the last two celebrated editions, the festival has managed to tell the untold stories of culture, traditions and customs of the Khoi and San through song, dance, art exhibitions, film screenings and workshops.

The four-day programme will be broken down into two days of workshops, training, activations and rehearsals in Andriesvale and Askham on January 24 and 25, to consolidate what the enthusiastic artistes have learnt over the years.

The 26th will be made up of a school programme outreach, panel discussions, rehearsals and bonfire storytelling in Askham. Wrapping up on the last day, the extravaganza unleashes massive festival performances, dance, poetry, music, photo exhibitions, cultural cuisines, language master-classes, and film screenings in Philandersbron.

With the setting of the mystic Kalahari, along with its Khoi and San inhabitants – often portrayed as subjects of myth, mystery and misconception through the mainstream arts – KAHF is on a mission to change narratives, and empowering indigenous communities of the “first nation”.

On its website, the Kalahari Arts and Heritage Festival lists its mission as the preservation of Khoi and San heritage, culture and human rights through music performances, art exhibitions, photography displays, film screenings, capacity-building workshops and discussions.

With an array of sponsors and partners, including the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, the Presidential Employment Stimulus, and the Africa Human Rights Film Festival, the event seeks to expose and empower Khoi and San artists to new audiences/consumers from around the country and different parts of the world.

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