Zim's top festival Hifa reinvents

HARARE - Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) Chairman Muchadeyi Masunda says there won’t be a 2016 edition to allow the country’s leading arts event to reinvent itself.

Masunda told journalists on Thursday that the next 18 months would enable Hifa step back, reinvent and come back bigger and better in 2017.

“We have had to reinvent ourselves. All of you have been invited to come and see an even more exciting level of Hifa. Thank you for your support in the past and we look forward to working with you as we take it to the next level,” he said.

At the same press conference, a defiant Hifa director Maria Wilson insisted that one of Africa’s leading festivals was here to stay.

“Hifa is not going anywhere. We are here to stay. What you are about to see is expansion. We will create more platforms for artists and their development. This is not a gap year. For the next 18 months we will be building up to the next Hifa as you know it will be in 2017,” said Wilson.

Over the next 18 months Hifa will several arts activities including major concerts. Hifa also intends to fuse art and sport.

In an interview with the Daily News yesterday, Hifa associate executive director Tafadzwa Simba said the change at Hifa has nothing to do with economic challenges affecting several of their corporate partners.

“There are three key things to note. Firstly, HIFA has always innovated in order continuously provide fresh and different offerings to the public. Hifa has launched a set of five fresh, bespoke and challenging programmes that will virtually offer 365 days of Hifa in 2016 instead of only six.

“Secondly, these programmes have multiple projects within them which will need 18 months to carry through and prepare them for staging at a festival. For instance, at the next Festival week in 2017, there will be a particular concert with one thousand voices.

“Thirdly, it must be noted that as a result of the innovation and the preparation, there will actually be more activity and more partners being brought on board in addition to Hifa’s traditional backers,” said Simba.

He added that the festival would be run under five programmes namely Hifa Presents, Hifa Engage, Hifa Events, Hifa Play and Hifa Amigos that will have multiple projects under them.

The changes taking place at Hifa should come as no surprise to those who have followed keenly developments at one of Africa’s leading arts event.

Since its inception in 1999, Hifa was an oasis hope even during the economic and political turbulence that ravaged Zimbabwe in the not-so-distant past. With several of the country’s institutions falling by the wayside amidst political and economic chaos, resilient Hifa refused to be knocked off its perch.

But the last edition proved to be the turning point. In the words of Hifa associate executive director Tafadzwa Simba, Hifa 2015 was a miracle that almost failed to materialise.

“A miracle! It almost did not happen owing to the difficult economic environment we are all operating in.Hifa is grateful to the government ministries and agencies, corporate and development partners and above all the audiences and artists who pulled together to make Hifa 2015 a success,” he told the Daily News a day after Hifa 2015.

In the run-up to this year’s edition, Simba revealed that four corporates, that he declined to name, were no longer in a position to sponsor the festival due to the depressed economic environment.

“There are four direct investors who will not be part of Hifa this year who were there last year. We would like to note that the operating environment is very difficult.

“Needless to say, the economic environment has been difficult over the past year and yes, there are some companies that will not be able to benefit from an association with what has been recognised as one of the largest international events in the world,” the Hifa associate executive director said at the time.

Though Simba refused to confirm it at the time, the Daily News established that one of sponsors that pulled out was Telecel, the then sponsor of the main stage setting the stage for Zol to take over as the sponsor of the main stage.

Unlike in previous editions when most shows were mostly sold out, this year Hifa had to come up with some promotions to save some concerts from degenerating into flops. One of the gigs that almost flopped was ‘The Sonic Wonderland Show’ that featured international DJs in addition to Zimbabwe’s Jason Le Roux.

After fans had largely resisted the $30 entry fee, Hifa organisers were forced to come up with an eleventh hour promotion that allowed 100 fans to get two tickets after paying for one.

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