Let's learn from Hifa

HARARE - The upcoming Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) has a lot of positives to artistes and art promoters.

Hifa has announced that the 15th edition of the festival will run from April 29 to May 4, 2014.

In the past when I attended Hifa, I managed to learn a thing or two, especially in terms of the festival’s organisational capability.

As a showbiz promoter, I have followed closely the events taking place during Hifa and I have realised that there are a lot of positives to pick from.

Those aspiring to be promoters of the arts, be they visual or performing, have to take time to visit Hifa and learn from activities taking place there. Just going there as part of the crowd will give aspiring showbiz promoters very valuable experience.

From running the bars, restaurants to stage design and all the accompanying adverts, Hifa is indeed a school for those with a genuine need to learn the basics of festivals.

I have also witnessed some high tech equipment being brought to Hifa, a plus for most live performers who need the best stage equipment, lights and qualified technicians to manage their acts.

Local technicians are usually engaged and this gives them the chance to work on quality equipment, hence showcasing their prowess in their field of work.

To the artistes’ managers, they learn how to programme their craft and Hifa has its programmes staged, on time. A 7pm concert is just about that time, no less, nothing more.

Hifa has also taught me the need to produce a detailed programme for performers with specific performance time frameworks.

It has never been easy for our local artistes to keep time, especially when we are dealing with them during the course of our showbiz engagements. But at Hifa, I have witnessed artistes getting to perform on time.

The other positive aspects at Hifa are local productions by our artistes which are usually different from what they showcase every other day. With Hifa, artistes are asked to present a detailed script of their performance and stage requirements.

The artiste’s performance has to be a new creation, something that brings with it excitement, something unusual. And I have witnessed exciting synergies from our local artistes; be they musicians as they collaborate to cater for a particularly-designed audience.

It is my hope that some of these collaborations are carried on even after Hifa. I am glad that musicians like Jah Prayzah and Suluman Chimbetu have managed to put together a night-long package in which they share the stage, eventually bringing out one act.

Apart from the participating artistes, the Hifa gathering also provides capacity training and resources to emerging writers, directors and producers for theatre. 

When I look at what needs to be taken into account in terms of putting together a festival like Hifa, I look small. There is a lot that goes through the six days of activity. You have to have the financial muscle, of course, and the human capacity to pull through such a creative exploration.

As for the sponsorship, which is the oil for the smooth running of Hifa, I think the organisers have done extremely well to get the trust and favour of potential sponsors.

Sponsors usually look at various aspects of the festival before committing themselves to putting their finances and I am sure they are happy with the way Hifa is being run.

But first, it is Hifa’s organisational capacity to manage lodgings for all the visiting performing artists, in their hundreds, which is amazing. Notwithstanding the fact that all these visiting artistes need visas and working permits processed on time.

The ticketing is one area we as promoters have to closely look at and Hifa seems to have mastered the skill to ticketing their showcases. This is coupled by the money the organiser ploughs into marketing of the whole event; from the glossy programme, media adverts, and press interviews to marketing merchandise.

It is important to note that the running of the festival is well coordinated by working committees, something local showbiz promoters should strive to do.

Trying to do all the things individually will not work, hence the inclusion of special coordinating committees running various errands.

Comments (1)

Thanks for a very positive article. In-spite of all the faults that others see in HIFA, it is crucial to see the positives and learn from them for our own good. Well done for your NAMA triumph Biggie, the arts are much better with your intentions.

elton mjanana - 5 March 2014

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