and lectures) in the main programme. When the NAF celebrated its 40th anniversary last year, artists from over 40 countries took part in more than 2 800 shows over a period of 11 days.
Though the inhabitants are not always crazy about this foreign invasion – some of them rent out their houses for the duration of the festival and f lee from the town – Grahamstown’s citizens truly realise the festival’s economic importance.
This is also apparent from a study into the social impact of the festival, which was undertaken by Rhodes University’s economics department in 2013.
“We wanted to determine how the festival impacted on the way people socialise with each other, how it affects their impression of the city and whether it makes a positive contribution to their daily lives,” says Professor Jen Snowball, one of the lead researchers.
The feedback was that close to 80% of the participants believe that the festival plays an important role in determining Grahamstown’s identity, and 70% reckon that the festival is an event where people of different cultures and backgrounds can meet and swap ideas.
Snowball interprets these f indings as “an encouraging indication that the festival functions at a level that overcomes the boundaries of race, class and cultural backgrounds”.
According to the study, the NAF contributes an estimated R349.9m to the economy of the city and the Eastern Cape.
The study also found that visitors from beyond the Eastern Cape spent a further R27.3m in the province before and after the festival, and that the festival contributes about R90m to Grahamstown’s GDP via direct and indirect spend, job creation and tourism.
The challenge is to let the definite artistic and economic impact of the NAF f low through to the poorer communities who form a large part of the Makana municipality, of which Grahamstown is part. The unemployment rate in the Grahamstown area is estimated to be more than 70%.
“We are thoroughly aware of the divisions in Grahamstown,” says Tony Lankester, CEO of the NAF. “But it is not something that you can change on your own. We hope to make a difference during the short period that the festival runs annually.”
In the past there have been malcontents who have complained that the festival is “exclusive” and that it uses Rhodes University as a base.
Since 2010, the Fingo Festival has been presented during the NAF in Fingo Village, an area in Grahamstown. This festival includes shows for children in the