Originally published in Cue.
The National Arts Festival brings hundreds of artists and performers to Grahamstown every year. The vast majority of the venues that they perform in are on the western, more developed, side of town. This has meant that Grahamstown East residents feel excluded from the Festival. The Fingo Festival aims to bridge the gap between both sides of town.
Founded in 2011 as an independent festival, the Fingo Festival was included in the main programme last year. One of its organisers, Xolile Madinda, says that they had “started their own thing and then they [the Festival] joined”. He also praised the efforts of Festival CEO Tony Lankester in helping them secure funding in order to keep their festival running.
The festival will mostly involve face-painting, storytelling and other activities for young children, but will also include performances by artists from all over the Eastern Cape. Madinda, who lives in Fingo and is also an accomplished hip-hop artist, says that the Fingo Festival is all about the community claiming the space for themselves.
“We can’t just rely on the [main] Festival; it needs to be sustainable. We want to encourage artists to come and use this space for their own good.”
Madinda is also hopeful about encouraging local businesses to support their festival. Though most businesspeople in Grahamstown East look to the other side of town as the place to be, Business Beyond Festival, a dialogue which will form part of the Fingo Festival programme, is aimed at getting them to invest in Fingo in order to upgrade local facilities and entice more and more of the main Festival to their side of town.
The official Fingo Festival slogan is ‘See you in the crowd!’ and Madinda believes that it will not just be locals in attendance. “People here are ignorant about the main Festival but people there are ignorant about here. We want to educate them and we hope to see some white kids playing here with our kids.”
Zanele Panini, the librarian at Fingo Village Library, which is next door to the festival, is excited about the event: “We are very happy with the Festival because people go there and they don’t know about our facilities. Then they come here and learn about what we have.”
Nosimiselo Sankobe, a lifelong resident of Fingo, loves the idea of a festival in her backyard: “I’m used to Festival being there in town. It’s a great idea to bring it here, to us.” The Fingo Festival takes place daily in the Multi-Purpose Centre on the corner of Dr Jacob Zuma Drive and Albert Street from 1 to 6 July.