'Hifa involves communities'

HARARE - Thank you very much for the kind words pertaining to the Harare International Festival of the Arts’ (Hifa’s) contribution to the community and for highlighting the work Hifa does in bringing communities together.

We would just like to add to the discussion you began through your editorial of February 27.

Firstly, It must be noted that Hifa has indeed spread its inclusivity to many communities. Further, inclusivity must not only be viewed in the context of suburbs or townships within Harare.

This is why Hifa is centrally located so that it is easy for anyone from any part of the city to easily attend. If, for example, Hifa itself was to be held in Tafara, it would not be fair for a Warren Park resident to have to travel all the way to the other side of the city to attend. Or if it was in Cranborne, what of the person travelling from Budiriro, Kuwadzana or Mabelreign?

Having Hifa activities centrally located in the centre of the city makes it easier for all residents to access it equally. In terms of public transportation, travelling to the centre of the city represents only one commuter omnibus trip from virtually all Harare’s suburbs.

This not only represents convenience in terms of cutting down on the public’s transportation costs but also in terms of safety by reducing travelling time as some shows are held at night.

That having been said, Hifa also holds workshops in outlying locales like Young Africa Centre in Chitungwiza for example.

This is to say nothing of the 300 children from disadvantaged communities that are brought in to the Festival every year (free of charge) so that they can enjoy the Festival and a free meal with potential young friends from other communities. Hifa has been engaged in various urban regeneration exercises such as the use of wall murals to assist in the beautification of previously marginalised areas; Hifa has so far worked with visiting and local artists on three murals in Mbare.

Hifa has also gone out to some of the most outlying areas of the country to support and nurture artistes. Hifa has brought groups from as far as Bulilima-Mangwe, Chimanimani, Binga, Lupane, Beitbridge, Victoria Falls and Hwange to perform at Hifa. Even extremely peripheral communities like prisoners are catered for.

Hifa also has a programme where artistes go and perform for Prisoners at Harare Central Prison as part of psychosocial support. Prisoners are also afforded the opportunity to perform at Hifa itself as a means by which to encourage and showcase their talent whilst assisting them in their efforts to sell their music.

This programme started with only Harare Central Prison prisoners performing at Hifa in 2011 but in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Prison Service, prison arts groups from around the country also got this opportunity in 2012.

Thank you also for agreeing with Hifa that collaborations are extremely important — hence Hifa’s making them a critical element of every edition of the Festival. You are correct in observing that there were 204 performances at Hifa 2013, but the total number of individual acts was 126 (some acts have more than one performance).

About three quarters of that number of acts is comprised of local acts, which Hifa is also keen on exposing to the world as they are — a genuine showcasing of 100 percent Zimbabwean creative content. The 16 collaborative acts are therefore drawn from the 126 acts and we commend the participating artists for this as collaborations are actually quite difficult to pull off.

There has to be monumental effort in order to coordinate the availability of artistes from around the world for rehearsals with their local counterparts. Each day an act (usually made up of a number of individuals) travels or resides in the country represents a significant cost and most visiting groups have back-to-back engagements around the world making their schedules scarce on rehearsal times.

This not withstanding, the majority of the visiting artistes do hold general workshops for the public as well as master classes for professional artists whilst they are here — this is the basis of Hifa’s extensive workshop programme as this is the best way of making use of the restricted time they have here.

Space precludes going much into the 80 to 100 craft stalls availed each year to Zimbabwean handicraft practitioners. Each stall is manned by several of the craft artists — the vast majority of whom hail from the sprawling poor townships you mentioned. Nor can we go much into Hifa’s support for other festivals around the country through such methods as availing staging and other equipment free of charge.

Once again, thank you for contributing to the discussion of the various forms of work that Hifa does. Whilst Hifa is indeed a large and successful endeavour owing to the support and involvement of dedicated Zimbabweans, it is not omnipotent.

Hifa is indeed flattered that, as a result of the success of the combined effort of all involved, there has developed within the public a tendency or perhaps a wish to view Hifa as a silver bullet for everything. This is perhaps understandable as Zimbabweans perhaps are pining for the levels of aesthetics and operational efficiency towards which Hifa strives to be translated into other aspects of Zimbabwean life. Hifa indeed will continue to share its abilities in many various aspects of the social and cultural landscape of Zimbabwe.

At the same time, Hifa hopes that its efforts and the discussions such as this one which you have opened will act as a catalyst for other players within the creative industry and all Zimbabweans to “Switch On” their inherent potential and make Zimbabwe the sterling success and global leader in all the aspects it should be.

*Simba is the Hifa Head of Media and Community Liaison. He is contactable at media@hifa.co.zw.

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