When it comes the arts, football seems an unlikely source of inspiration. But this year there seems to be an emergence of football related performances at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape.

The annual festival, which runs until 4 July, is one of the largest arts festivals in the world after the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland. It draws artists and actors from around the world and features around 600 independent shows, exhibitions, lectures and cultural acts.

“Art is not exclusive. Art is an integral part of daily life. I don’t believe that sport and art need to compete,” said Ismail Mahomed, National Arts Festival Director, who has been running the festival for three years, although his relationship with the annual festival started several years ago when he was a producer.

“We recognize that the team [Bafana Bafana] played a considerable role in a journey of discovery for us as a nation. Similarly, with arts, you immerse yourself into the soul of a nation. We offer people the opportunity to engage with soccer - but between matches through exploring a pool of creativity that defines us as a nation.”

Of the several shows using football as a central theme, there is an Australian one man show production called The football diaries, a dance, theatre and music extravaganza by an international cast called Football football, a Makarapa exhibition and even a gala performance by the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra featuring two World Cup songs.

Star performer Mpho Osei-Tutu acts in a debut one-man-show called Convincing Carlos directed by award-winning Craig Morris. The French-born South African actor and screenwriter plays several characters in a story of a Bafana Bafana-mad family man who is seduced into believing that he has been chosen to save the national team from global embarrassment ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. His plan? To convince South Africa's World Cup coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, to return at all costs.

“The number of people at the stadiums shows how immersed we are in the game, how people are passionate about football and I’ve managed to get quite a lot of soccer fans to come watch the show,” said Osei-Tutu.

But it’s the way arts, like sport, can unite people through the sharing of experiences that gets Osei-Tutu the most excited. “I love telling human stories and reaching people. There are six billion stories to tell but it’s the engaging people across all borders that I love the most.”

For Arts and Culture Minister, Ms. Lulama Xingwana , hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup is the moment in which South Africa can invite the world to celebrate Africa’s humanity through rhythms, harmonies and visions.

“This is your moment. This is your time to share with the world the richness of our people, the vibrancy of our cultures and the resilient spirit of a nation that is determined to be an important role-player on the world stage,” said Xingwana at the opening event of the National Arts Festival.