About PACE

Bumi Thomas. Photo: Supplied by artist.

Welcome to the Pan-African Creative Exchange

The Pan-African Creative Exchange (PACE), is a biannual arts market for African artists, developed for national and international presenters and producers. It is an initiative of the Vrystaat Arts Festival. PACE provides the highest quality, inter-disciplinary arts product, covering theatre, dance, music, visual arts, crafts and more from Africa, to buyers, artists and the general public across the globe.

PACE was born in Bloemfontein at a long table conversation between arts professionals from the African continent and international visitors. It is driven by a ‘coalition of the willing’ from the African continent as well as cultural professionals outside of Africa.

The first PACE took place 6-9 July 2018, before the Vrystaat Arts Festival, and offered a new platform for artists and companies, based in Africa, to present high-quality work and to network with national and international producers, promoters, funders, festival organisers and artists.

More than 130 artists participated with over 30 showcases from countries as far as Egypt, Nigeria, Namibia, Senegal, South Africa, Rwanda and Zimbawbe. We attracted delegates from across Africa, U.S.A., Australia, the Netherlands, U.K., Belgium and Singapore.

PACE aims

PACE aims to increase the global reach of Africa’s arts industry to the broader world and to contribute the continent’s development of future work through grants, sponsorship and various other endowments

Nine strands make up the PACE ecosystem

  •   Production of full shows for tour-ready work
  •   Showcases focusing on excerpts of tour-ready work 
  •   Showcases focusing on excerpts of works in progress
  •   New work pitches
  •   Producer shadowing and exchange program 
  •   Critical debate/roundtable discussion sessions 
  •   Networking programmes 
  •   Market place 
  •   Key PACE programming events (i.e. PACE+)

PACE+ is a unique platform held in the interim years between the Pan-African Creative Exchange (PACE), to help artists reflect on and further develop their work showcased at PACE.

This year we are hosting the first PACE+ Dramaturgical Labatory, led by Dr ‘Funmi Adewole. This year, PACE 2018 alumni are invited to participate in this inaugural lab.

PACE+ provides talented and diverse artists with the opportunity to present innovative new work to arts professionals on a rare platform for global arts professionals to see high-quality work by African artists.

The Vrystaat Kunstefees • Arts Festival • Tsa-Botjhaba is an Afrikaans language festival that forges creative connections with English and Sotho cultures. We contribute to the exchange of ideas around arts, culture and society through relationships with other national and international creative communities.

This year’s festival takes place from 1-7 July 2019 at the Bloemfontein campus of the University of the Free State which is made available for the duration of the festival.

Vision: One festival. Many stories.

Mission: To support the development and presentation of great art in the Free State for all.

Goals: We bring people together. We support great art. We develop artists and audiences. We drive innovation. We play in the world stage.

Marketing: Vrystaat Arts Festival offers a creative marketing platform that reaches professionals across the country. About 160 000 visitors are expected every year for the duration of the festival (seven days). These visitors like a celebration, social contact and the arts. A wide variety of marketing opportunities are offered, and special offers can be designed for particular needs. The enormous number of users who visit our website every year makes it an ideal spot to expose your business/enterprise. Advertising space is granted to approved organisations.

Famed for an abundance of roses that bloom in the city, Bloemfontein, which means ‘fountain of flowers’ in Afrikaans, is the provincial capital of the Free State province and the judicial capital of South Africa. Commonly referred to as ‘the city of roses’. Bloemfontein was selected as one of the nine host cities for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

As one of the biggest cities in South Africa, the metropolis has a rich artistic and cultural history. Lord of the Rings author, J.R.R. Tolkien was born here, and the reverence for the city’s artistic heritage abounds, with one of the best performing arts infrastructures in Africa, that includes 14 state-of-the-art venues.

Nike Jonah


In addition to serving as Executive Director of PACE, Nike is also the Director of Connecting Dots, an arts consultancy that works with a range of clients across the arts and creative sectors. For almost a decade she developed and produced four editions of the Arts Council England’s Flagship Diversity initiative, Decibel Performing Arts Showcase. Nike is a visiting research fellow at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (2017-2019). As a keen champion for diversity and equality in the arts, Nike has led numerous discussions and workshops during her extensive travels across the globe, including North America, Europe, Africa and Australia. Nike is a Boards Trustee for The European Cultural Foundation, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, The Royal Africa Society and The Bush Theatre.

Dr Ricardo Peach


Dr Ricardo Peach is the Director of the Vrystaat Arts Festival, a multi-artform festival in Mangaung, South Africa. He developed and is the Co-Director of the Programme for Innovation in Artform Development at the University of the Free State, partnering with the Vrystaat Arts Festival. Previously he managed the Capacity Development Program at the Australia Council.

Erwin Maas


Erwin Maas is a New York based theatermaker, educator and international arts advocate from the Netherlands. He has worked extensively in Australia, Europe, South Africa and USA. Erwin is the Artistic Director of the International Society for Performing Arts, Artistic Associate & Director of the Fellowship Program for the International Performing Arts for Youth, and Programming Director for the Off Broadway Origin Theatre Company. From 2010 to 2014, he was the Director of Performing Arts for the Cultural Department of the Royal Netherlands Embassy & Consulates in the USA. Erwin is a core-member of Theater Without Borders, and member of Georgetown University's Laboratory for Global Performance & Politics. – www.erwinmaas.com

Isobel Hawson


Isobel Hawson is a freelance arts consultant and producer, and is Director of On Tour Ltd., a national and international arts consultancy. As a senior arts manager, she has extensive knowledge and experience in theatre, arts funding, participatory arts projects, organizational development, project management and strategic planning.

Jenni Lewin-Turner


Jenni Lewin-Turner has maintained a long portfolio career as an international creative producer, cultural broker, consultant and curator. She holds an MA in Cultural Leadership and also an MA in Media Practice for Development & Social Change.  She is the founding director of Urbanflo Creative, a socially engaged collective of arts professionals who share a vision of equity and empowerment - supporting marginalised communities and humanitarian causes through arts and culture.  Jenni has devised and delivered numerous multi-artform projects designed to establish an innovative, creative platform to connect communities across traditional, geographical, cultural, generational, social and economic divides.

Laura Aiton


Laura Aiton is a freelance producer currently undertaking an MA in Creative Producing at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She has produced work around the UK including Exeter, Cambridge, London and Edinburgh. Most recently, Laura has been working on FemFringe, a new initiative that works to showcase emerging female-led companies from the fringe theatre scenes. In its first year, FemFringe sold out showcases at both Edinburgh Fringe (August 2018) and Vaults Festival (February 2019). As an events coordinator, Laura has worked for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Olivier Awards.