Here’s your 2023 festival programme

Woordfees 2023 bubbles with art and music

In 2022, the Toyota SU Woordfees presented its first Spring festival. Out of necessity the programme was compiled quickly and under great pressure as COVID restrictions on the capacity of theatres were only lifted that June. This year, the Woordfees takes place once again in October, but this time it is returning with an extensive programme spread over nine days (7-15 October) – and not seven days as in last year. 

The 2023 programme, which in several ways is the embodiment of the effervescent festival theme, Bubble, was launched on Thursday, 22 June, at a special event on the Muratie Wine Estate, with Tracey Lange as host.

The full programme is now available at this link, where an English PDF of the full festival can be downloaded. There is only an Afrikaans version of the free printed festival guide which is available now at the Woordfees offices in Erfurthuis (37 Ryneveld Street, Stellenbosch).

Tickets for the approximately 640 unique productions in 50 venues in and around Stellenbosch will be on sale from 7 July on Quicket.


The Woordfees began as a book festival and the Writers’ Festival still lies at the heart of the programme. Visitors can choose from 54 book discussions in which more than 90 well-known writers and others will participate. 

New publications including books from authors such as, among others, Barbara Masekela, Bibi Slippers, Eben Venter, Etienne van Heerden, Johann Rossouw, Jonny Steinberg, Marita van der Vyver, Rudie van Rensburg and Sihle Khumalo will all be under discussion, and we are raising a glass to beloved West Coast author Sussie Kotze who will be turning 90.

Topics are varied and will include discussions on the economy, cooking, politics and of course, in this year of loadshedding and the World Cup – Eskom and rugby. 

Several discussions will take place in English or a combination of English and AfrikaansAndré de Ruyter will join the discussion of his book Truth to Power; Ella Blumenthal (102) will talk about her autobiography, I am Ella, detailing her journey from Auschwitz to Brakpan; Sam Mathe author of From Kippie to Kippies and Beyond discusses the first directory of South African township music; Barbara Masekela is candid about her memoir Poli Poli; Greg Mills Rich State, Poor State – tackles the question of why some states fail while others, with similar challenges, prosper; Sihle KhumaloMilk the Beloved Country – offers up a different view of black entrepreneurship and a unique walking tour of Kayamandi, led by Wesley Diphoko author of Silicon Stellies,will demonstrate how digital technology is turning Kayamandi into South Africa’s first smart township.


The programme offers 37 productions, of which 13 debut at the festival.

Boesak, a one-man play with Marlo Minnaar, chronicles the life of the theologian and anti-apartheid activist Allan Boesak – from his student days and his activities in the ministry, to his divorce from his first wife, his marriage to Elna Botha, and the controversy surrounding his fraud case and prison sentence. It is written and directed by Mercy Kannemeyer.

Jaco Bouwer directs Die vegetariër. Hertzog Prize winner Willem Anker translated Han Kang’s Booker Prize Winning novel, The Vegetarian, into Afrikaans and adapted it for the stage. The production stars Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Wilhelm van der Walt, Stian Bam and Rolanda Marais.

Die moeder, with Sandra Prinsloo and Dawid Minnaar, returns to the Woordfees stage having won several Fiesta and Woordtrofee awards. This exceptional production about a woman who struggles with reality once her children have left home, has received standing ovations since it debuted in 2022. It is directed by Christiaan Olwagen.

Other top Afrikaans productions include Niklas Rådström’s Monsters, Alma Nel’s drama Op ons and a sharp comedy Tuis, ek’s liefie with Cintaine Schutte as a woman who loses her job and finds refuge in living as a 1950s housewife.

English productions are led by Geoffrey Hyland’s sparkling A Midsummer Night’s Dream that played to packed houses during its run at Maynardville earlier this year; Sandra Prinsloo’s mesmerising turn as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s Master Class; Nadia Davids’ Hold Still directed by Jay Pather and starring Andrew Buckland as the head of a family forced to confront what it is they owe each other and others; David Kramer’s Ver in die wereld Kittie that recounts a story of singers who became famous in America singing English versions of Afrikaans folk songs; and Magnet Theatre’s riveting Oedipus at Colonus #aftersophocles with Jennie Reznek and Faniswa Yisa, directed by Mark Fleishman, that played to great acclaim earlier this year at the Baxter Theatre.


This year’s programme once again features a Fringe and Children’s Festival. There are 13 plays, four of which are debuts, on the Fringe programme. The Fringe provides an opportunity for young artists to experiment and for festivalgoers to discover exciting, emerging talent.

The Children’s Festival line-up has eight shows that promise great, educational entertainment and fun for our younger visitors and their parents.

There are four productions on the DANCE programme with another opportunity to see the award-winning Karatara and to celebrate 50 years of extraordinary dance with Jazzart Dance Theatre.

Some of the country’s biggest comedians with be strutting their stuff in fresh new shows at the SAVANNA COMEDY festival: Alan Committie, a new Francois Toerien show, Îlewith Sophie Joans, Namaste BaeBlessings and Kombucha with Rob van Vuuren, Rambunctious with Nik Rabinowitz, and a stand-up show with Shimmy Isaacs.


A wide and rich variety of styles and works are showcased in the 23 concerts on the Classical Music programme – from the world-famous, always inspiring Stellenbosch University Choir to a rousing celebration of Rachmaninoff’s 150th birthday with Nina Schumann, Megan-Geoffrey Prins and an orchestra led by the exciting young conductor Jacobus de Jager to Classical Calabash, in which young composers display their virtuosity with a unique blend of indigenous African instruments, singing and classical music concepts.

In a year in which the theme is Bubble, there had to be space on the programme for some of the other big Bs – Bach and Beethoven. There’ s the celebrated Amici Quartet’s Beethoven String Quartets: The Beginning and the End and Johann Sebastian Bach: The Flute Sonatas with Liesl Stoltz (flute), David Pinoit (cello) and Erik Dippenaar (harpsichord).

The classical menu also serves up Between Friends with the multi-talented Gareth Lubbe (violin, viola, voice) and Luis Magalhães (piano); Cape Choral Academy: Boland Masses led by Xander Kritzinger with the Cape Baroque Orchestra led by Erik Dippenaar; the Charl du Plessis Trio performing the Peer Gynt Suite with a bit of ABBA and Bach sprinkled in; Songs of Shakespeare with excerpts from various operas sung by Brittany Smith, Nobulumko Mngxekeza, Alida Scheepers (sopranos), Lukhanyo Moyake (tenor), Conroy Scott (baritone) and José Dias (piano), as well as The Dante String Quartet: Points of Origin. The Dante Quartet consist of two Britons and two South Africans who have been honoured by the BBC Music Magazine and Royal Philharmonic Society.

Good news! Pensioners are eligible for a R15 discount on every ticket bought for the Classical Music performances in advance.


From stadium productions to small intimate performances, from picnic concerts at Van der Stel Sports Grounds to cabaret and gigs with jazz, rock, rumba, hip-hop and pop, the 46 items on the contemporary music programme has something for everyone.

The four big picnic concerts at the Van der Stel Sports Grounds offer an affordable ticket for every contemporary music taste:  Nagskof Vol. 1 (with Fokofpolisiekar, Desmond and the Tutus, Majozi etc.), Spoegwolf, Uit volle Bosch (with Van Der Aven, Zaan Sonnekus, Gian Groen, Jan Blohm and Die Heuwels Fantasties) and Jol & Jive – WOW turns 20! (with Tribal Echo, Temple Boys, Early B, Mango Groove, Dr Victor & The Rasta Rebels and others).

Two hits from last year’s Musiekindaba are coming to the Oude Libertas amphitheatre: Rock & Rumba (with Arno Carstens, Sima Mashazi and a hot band) and Hip-hop, bop & pop (with Jack Parow, Early B, Kurt Darren, Loki Rothman, The Blake Hellaby Quartet and Lea Venga). Also at Oude Libertas is a special concert for jazz lovers – Effervescence: Xamisa, Ikapa, Cape Town (with Leslie Kleinsmith, Babalwa Mentjies, Alvin Dyers, Jason “Hakiesdraad” Hartman and the US Jazz Band led by Felicia Lesch)

Valiant Swart and Neil Sandilands will launch their new albums in the intimate atmosphere of The Daisy Jones Bar, where Anton Goosen will also celebrate being 77 and not out.Artists featured at The Daisy Jones Bar include: Augusta Zietsman, Die Kaappunters (with Riku & Jackie Lätti, Churchil Naudé and others), Cape Djez, Goema and Beyond (with wonderful jazz musicians, led by Ramon Alexander); and Wordplay sessions (with Xabiso Vili, Toast Coetzer, Jerome Rex, Jaco van der Merwe and others) – a fun and crazy game show in which poets and musicians team up and improvise in front of an audience.

And then there is cabaret and songs with, among others, Amanda Strydom, André Schwartz, Elsabé Zietsman, Koos van der Merwe, Luna Paige, Marcia Moon, Nic de Jager, Niël Rademan, Petronel Baard, Tarryn Lamb and the innovative Lipkap’s Tongklap: ’n Rynkletskabaret with Frazer Barry, Jason Hartman, Kerishnie Pheiffer, Deniel Barry, Earl Witbooi, and others. Frieda van den Heever stages Skoonveld again, which scooped the 2022 Woordtrofee Award for Best Contemporary Music Production (in the solo category).


There are more than 50 events on the lifestyle programme with tons of interesting and good stuff to explore, taste, sip, learn and experience. You can go for a walk, run, do some yoga or ride a bike. For those less energetic days, there are gardens to visit, cooking demonstrations to attend, art tours to take and a chance to taste the huge variety of wine and food delights the Winelands and Stellenbosch have to offer.  

The 2023 Woordfees will open officially with the annual popular Langtafel under the oaks in Ryneveld Street. This year Bertus Basson and the top three teams from kykNET’s Kokkedoor vuur en vlam braai-off show will be providing the special menu for the evening. 

Stellenbosch Wine Routes once again offer a series of popular events, including:

Muratie: Wyn, Kos en Erfenis with Dr. Rijk Melck; Stellenbosch: Erfenis en legendescelebrating Stellenbosch Wine Routes’ 50 years with stories, food and wine in the Spier Manor House; Storiestap met Visit Stellenbosch – an exploration of the beautiful Old Bethlehem route through the Banhoek nature reserve in the company of a master storyteller, and the Woordfees-straatsoirée en Woordfees-borrelfees – two street festivals with food stalls, music and wine in Ryneveld Street. The Woordfees Wine School will also again offer their popular wine-tastings: Three classes presented by winemakers, wine personalities and a comedian – Bubbly 101, Chenin Blanc 101 and Pinotage 101.

Golf and the arts come together for a good cause at the Devonvale Golf Club with the second Toyota SU Woordfees Golf Day in partnership with the Cheetahs Rugby

Trust. Festivalgoers can book a four-ball and join sports personalities, well-known writers and artists to raise funds for the recruitment, development and retention of talented players and the provision of work and development opportunities for artists.


The Visual Arts programme offers great variety this year.

Wilma Cruise is the Festival Artist and will be honoured with a large exhibition in the SU Museum. Cruise explores the connection between humans and animals in her work. Some of her large, sought-after sculptures in clay and bronze will be on display alongside a selection of her paintings, drawings and sound installations.

The exhibition is free as are the other three exhibitions at the SU Museum:

Boerplek van Vrees – the controversial Anton Kannemeyer‘s (Bitterkomix) first solo exhibition in South Africa since 2015. The exhibited works engage in conversation with cancel culture, the woke mentality and the humourlessness and lack of self-irony in the ideologies under which young people currently make their way in the world.

Fanfare, under the curatorship of Marinda du Toit, consists of 14 life-sized realistic and fantasy animals made of metal. Mounted on floats, they will follow a daily route through the streets of Stellenbosch to the SU Museum, where they will be on exhibit. The animals were made under the guidance of the e-Bosch Heritage Project and skilled welders of sheet metal, recycled scrap material and discarded items by representatives of Stellenbosch Central and its 13 neighboring towns: Cloetesville, Devon Valley, Idas Valley, Jamestown, Kayamandi, Klapmuts, Kylemore, Lanquedoc, Pniël, Raithby, Vlottenburg, Wemmershoek and farm communities.

Karoo Kitaar Blues – 20 years ago, photographer John Hogg and painter John Kramer photographed the Karoo Kitaar Blues concerts in which David Kramer brought together unique folk musicians such as Helena Nuwegeld, Hannes Coetzee, Tokas Lodewyk, Koos Lof and Siena Mouers. Most of these artists have since passed away. This exhibition tells the moving stories of a rich, dying tradition; of people who never dared to dream of fame but learned to sing to drive away the cold and darkness.

Last year, Woordfees held its first art auction, preceded by an exhibition of the works for sale, in collaboration with Strauss & Co. This year, the auction is once again on the calendar.  Works of quality will be on display for sale, offering something for every pocket – whether a new collector with limited funds or an experienced auction attendee with deeper pockets looking for unique and coveted works.

Artists’ studio visits is a new event on the programme that gives festivalgoers access to Stellenbosch artists’ creative spaces. At set times, participating artists will be in their studios to welcome visitors. You can buy a ticket for an individual studio visit and/or follow an art route with the festival shuttle and visit several studios one after the other. The 18 artists who have opened their studios to visitors are: Jacques Buys, Johan Swart, Keith Dietrich & Heléne van Aswegen, Lunga Kama, Marianne Burger, Marié Stander, Maritza Breitenbach, Marlene von Dürckheim, Paddy Bouma, Paula van Coller-Louw, Rose Namubiru Kirumira, Rudolf Gouws, Sharlé Matthews, Stephen Rautenbach, Strijdom van der Merwe, Trude Gunther and Vernon Swart.

You can plan your artist studio visit schedule by first visiting the Woordfees Atelier exhibition – an overview of the work of the participating artists in the IS Art Gallery.


We are all feeling the economic pinch, and it was therefore a priority for the Woordfees to make as many quality presentations as possible free to festivalgoers.

Most of the exhibitions on the Visual Arts programme are free – only the shuttle for the Artists’ Studio visits requires a small fee.

Toyota have made it possible for us to keep the shuttle ticket price as low as possible and to offer a solution to Stellenbosch’s limited public parking. The shuttle costs R15 per ride; R50 for a day ticket and R150 for a ticket for the entire week of the festival. Shuttles run from the festival centre and the parking areas at Stellenbosch High School and Koch Street between all venues where festival events are scheduled.

There are 52 talks on the DISCOURSE programme and 11 in the AGRICULTURE discussion series with a wide range of experts sharing their insights, knowledge and inspiring ideas – and it is all free.

The WOORDFEES FILM FESTIVAL (made possible by the Open Window) is bursting at the seams this year with over 60 films from more than 20 countries being screened free of charge. Included in the line-up are all the short films and short documentaries that will debut this year at the 2023 kykNET Silwerskerm Film Festival.

Also on the programme are eight feature films, including special previews of the comedy Hans steek die Rubicon oor and the romcom Die tragiese saak van Pamina Vermaak – two new movies based on two popular books by Rudie van Rensburg (Hans) and Annie Klopper (Pamina).

Tickets for the open-air picnic concerts at the Van der Stell Sports Grounds cost between R60 and R150.

There will be a variety of discount packages available aimed at students and pensioners.

The Happy Friday Sale when tickets to selected shows go on sale for a low price to allow as many people as possible to enjoy the festival is back. The date will be announced on our website and social media platforms.

We are returning to some of our traditional venues this year: Die Plataan Café, last year in Die Khaya, has moved back to its original spot – the quad behind the SU Museum. This is also from where RSG will broadcast many of their current affairs, discussion and entertainment programmes. Die Khaya and its forecourt is still a central spot to meet friends and grab a bite. This is where the Netwerk24 Festival Café will be found as well as Radio Helderberg live broadcasting interviews with well-known artists and authors.

The EasyEquities Book Tent and the festival bookshop will also return to the quad behind the SU Museum.  

For further enquiries, send an email to