Portuguese Festival 2023, May 26, 27 and 28, at the Nasrec Expo Centre, Nasrec, Johannesburg

Portuguese Festival

After a few years’ hiatus, a major Portuguese cultural festival is once again set to wow the citizens of Johannesburg and its surrounds. This time the venue is the Nasrec Expo Centre, which has played host to countless exhibitions over the past few decades. The Portuguese Festival 2023 is set to revive a proud decades-old tradition that was previously established at Wemmer Pan, which unfortunately has been closed to the public, due to environmental and geological concerns.

Organiser Paulo Calisto promises the three-day festival will encapsulate all that is best in the South African Portuguese culture, and also introduce some diversity in regards to the entertainment that is planned for the event, which kicks off at 10 am on Friday, May 26 and runs through to 10 pm on Sunday May 28.

Traditional Portuguese music and dance will once again be the centrepiece of the festival, while some top-class musical acts from a range of cultures and musical genres will feature throughout the three days.

Portuguese cuisine is naturally going to be a key attraction at the festival, and here Calisto will be drawing on the culinary expertise that is part of his culture, having grown up in the very same family that has established one of the best-known Portuguese restaurants in the country. Portuguese culinary delights in South Africa were introduced here many decades ago, notably in the form of peri-peri chicken, from what was then known as Lourenco Marques.

The LM(Lourenco Marques) cooking methods typically involve lots of garlic, tomatoes, onions, coriander and white wine. The wildly popular Prego rolls are sure to be on offer in their thousands, at Nasrec, as well as specially Portuguese-prepared prawns, calamari and other sea foods. Portuguese bread is also unique in its texture and tastiness, and for a subtle desert, nothing beats a pasteis de nata, a Portuguese milk-tart pastry.

Headlining the entertainment on the stage at Nasrec will be internationally-renowned balladeer Joao Quintino. Perhaps most famous for the hits Queres Tu e Quero Eu and Adoro Portugal, Quintino and his traditional band have released a number of albums internationally. Other hugely popular Portuguese artists that will appear include the soulful Diana de Sousa, Miguel Pregueiro and Ana de Abreu.

Representing a broader spectrum of South African musical faire will be Kurt Darren, Jack Parrow, Mi Cassa, Choppa and DJ Crazy G. The live music will begin at 3 pm on Friday May 26 while on Saturday May 27 and Sunday May 28 the music starts at 9 am. The final musical sets are scheduled to end each evening just before the show closes at 10 pm.

“We are extremely proud of the musical line-up we have put together for the 2023 Portuguese Festival,” says Paolo Calisto. “We have obviously catered for Portuguese tastes in our set lists, but we represent a whole range of musical genres on each of the show days. I advise any music fan who wants to see a particular artist to visit our website or Facebook page and see which artists are appearing on a particular day, as the set lists will be different.

“Obviously Sunday will be the big day as far as the musical line-up is concerned, when we will be rolling out our heavy musical hitters.”

Another huge attraction at the event will be the traditional Portuguese dances, performed by dancers in full traditional costume. The Portuguese community has grown vastly in South Africa over the years and is now said to number over half a million people. Of course, Portugal’s links to South Africa were established before any other European nation. Bartholomeu Dias, a noted Portuguese explorer, was the first European to set foot on South African soil, when he reached the Cape in 1488. That was over 170 years before the Dutch established a refreshment post for ships in 1652.

Calisto points out that while the focus on the festival will be very much on food, drink and live entertainment, there will be a number of other attractions at The Portuguese Festival 2023. One of these will be drifting on the Nasrec skid pan, where show-goers will be able to ride as passengers in bellowing, tyre-shredding V8 drift cars.

“We have run drifting events at our car shows for the past decade and people are always blown away by how exciting it is to be driven sideways, right on the edge of control, in a V8 monster.”

There will be a large flea market section, with many fine goods on sale from stall holders.

Other big attractions will be helicopter flips, and for younger children there will be plenty of entertainment, including a play area and a mini fun fair.

Admission Prices are R120 for adults and R80 for children under 14. 

Secure parking will be available at the Nasrec Expo Centre at R30. Tickets are available from Computicket, or at the gates.

For more information visit the Portuguese Festival 2023 Facebook page here.