The 2021 National Arts Festival has officially come to an end – a fully virtual Festival for the second year in a row. While artists and audiences alike have missed the special magic that comes with being in a theatre venue, gallery or concert space, the digital pivot necessitated by Covid-19 brought exciting new opportunities. One of these is the extension of the Fringe programme: the virtual fringe, which hosted 125 productions this year. Among these were the nineteen winners of Standard Bank Ovation Awards, including gold award winners Tebogo Chologi for The Shack and Chadleigh Gowar for Gone but not Forgotten.
The Festival Fringe has always been a platform for the “fearless and independent”. South Africa’s theatre-makers have boldness and bravery in bucketloads, but 2020 and 2021 have been extremely tough years for performing artists. Standard Bank remains steadfast in its support of the arts and has sought innovative ways to connect artists and audiences during this time. It was out of this commitment that the BANK OF DREAMS was born: a chance for art fans to show their appreciation of the talent, hard work, creative genius and sheer guts of the artists on the Fringe.
Standard Bank’s Virtual Arts World has given National Arts Festival audiences the chance to become more than viewers – and through the BANK OF DREAMS, they could be active participants, interacting with the artists on the Fringe by designing messages of support expressed in colourful images and text. Over 1703 “messages of encouragement” were generated and shared via the BANK OF DREAMS, unlocking R230 177. 84. Standard Bank has deposited the final message to unlock the R500 000.00 showing real commitment and how they continue to ‘find new ways to make dreams possible!
Standard Bank would like to express its gratitude to members of the public and the arts community for their contributions to this campaign. The heartfelt but simple messages – which became digital building blocks of the BANK OF DREAMS – together convey to South Africa’s artists that they are valued, admired and inspiring. The challenge now is for arts consumers to remain vocal in their support and appreciation, continuing this momentum. A special word of thanks is also due to the campaign ambassadors who helped to promote this cause: David April, Felipe Mazibuko, Holly Rey, Lesego Seoketsa and Shekhinah.
Asked about her role as ambassador, visual artist Seoketsa affirms that “Standard Bank has been consistent in showing up for South African artists for over 40 years! This is something to celebrate. Covid-19 has had an impact on the ways that I work as an artist – exhibitions and shows have been limited – but it was so comforting to be part of a campaign that was purposeful and intentional in uplifting the creative economy. BANK OF DREAMS is an innovative initiative and I am honoured to have been a part of it.”
For house music queen Holly Rey, the BANK OF DREAMS is “an investment in today’s creators” to ensure “a future in the arts for tomorrow’s children”: “Art is the deepest form of self-reflection and the highest form of self-expression. Art teaches children how to be and how to express themselves. Fringe artists are often innovators exploring new ideas while expressing our fluid and ever-evolving culture. They are the dreamers who make our children’s future possible.”
Choreographer and arts administrator David April notes: “What is particularly heart-warming about the BANK OF DREAMS initiative is that arts practitioners within creative and cultural industries have been severely hard-hit since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Standard Bank has changed the lives of hundreds of South African artists and continues to find new ways of making arts dreams possible” said April, who has worked as a National Arts Festival artistic committee member and curator of the dance programme.
He points out that “Arts sponsorship is the lifeblood of the creative and cultural industries; it bolsters artists’ careers within a South African context and in return allows them to share their talent with fans around the world! Standard Bank in association with the National Arts Festival in particular has been a pillar helping to hold up the country’s arts infrastructure, sustaining the work of theatre-makers, dancers, musicians and visual artists.”
This year’s Standard Bank Young Artists are no exception and National Arts Festival audiences in 2021 have been privileged to share in the performances and exhibitions of Jefferson Tshabalala (Theatre), Nthato Mokgata (Music), Lulu Mlangeni (Dance), Blessing Ngobeni (Visual Art) and Sisonke Xonti (Jazz). The Standard Bank Young Artists, too, have helped to drive the BANK OF DREAMS campaign, lending their voices to cheer their fellow artists.
Through its partnership with the National Arts Festival – whatever form the Festival takes in 2022 and beyond – Standard Bank will continue to promote, support and encourage the arts in South Africa. As the BANK OF DREAMS has reminded us all, artists sustain audiences and audiences sustain artists.