Hifa 2017 a success, says Simba

HARARE - After an 18-month break the Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa) bounced back this year. The festival, which ran from May 2 to 7, elicited mixed feelings.

The Daily News on Sunday’s Dakarai Mashava recently spoke to Hifa associate executive director Tafadzwa Simba, a day after the end of the festival. Below are excerpts of the interview:

Q: What was your general impression of the just-ended edition of Hifa?

A: The overwhelming aspect of this festival is how eager the public was to experience the communal spirit of the Hifa week and how much they supported it. It was evident that many had missed this coming together of many different cultures and social spheres. To us, and I am sure to many, it was an achievement to even hold such an event, let alone one of the scale and international scope of Hifa.

Q: How does it compare to previous editions?

A: As you know (I have said so in press conferences for many years), I personally do not like to compare editions of the festival as I always say they are unique. However, there are certain things that were self-evident, most of which were anticipated. As expected, audience numbers were down given the depressed economy, less disposable income for the public as well as an acute shortage of cash… notwithstanding, artistically, there was growth which we would be proud of under any circumstances. I will mention a few. That Hifa was able to host an artiste of the international profile and calibre of SooJin Anjou an (internationally-acclaimed pianist born in South Korea and raised in US) is an awesome feat and is a pointer to the direction in which Hifa is heading. This direction is also underscored by the growth and expansion of the Opera programme which, as the founder and artistic director (Manuel Baggoro) mentioned, is a prelude to holding a full Opera at Hifa. Other pointers to the growth aspired to and experienced by Hifa this year are the comedy programme and the DJ element of the festival. For the first time, comedy had its own stand-alone programme within the overall Hifa programme. It was further pleasing to note that Doc Vikela’s show was sold-out before the Hifa week began. With regards to international DJs, Sonic Wonderland had its second edition, having debuted in 2015. The support was outstanding given that it was the longest show in the programme (running from 9pm to 1am). Timo ODV is one of the biggest DJs in South Africa and his set was well received on the Thursday of the Festival.

Q: You described the 2015 Hifa as a miracle, how would you describe the 2017 one?

A: Also a miracle — one which is down to the support of all stakeholders.

Q: When you postponed the 2016 edition, your plan was to bounce back bigger and better in 2017. Do you think you achieved that?

A: The plan was to start the next phase of the Festival’s life (having turned 16 years of age in 2016), hence the theme we used for activities carried out in 2016: “The Next Level”. This we did achieve as witnessed through the expansion of genres and scale on the artistic side. Inevitably, however, the issues that affect the country also affect the Festival. The cash crisis as well as the general downturn in the economy hampered the quantum of expansion experienced by the Festival.

Q: How successful was the crowdfunding initiative? How much did it contribute to the overall budget?

A: It was extremely successful and we are eternally grateful to the friends of the festival who started this initiative. Due to the fact that this outside initiative came after Hifa 2017 plans were well underway and that the crowdfunding campaign itself only finished a day after the festival, its funds could not be integrally worked into the costs of Hifa 2017. It was a supplementary initiative to cushion the festival as well as to assist in maintaining the standards which these friends felt should always be a part of the festival in future editions. The initiative was done through the website Thundafund.com. The way it works is that it has a “tipping point” (minimum amount to be raised) as well as a “dream goal” which is a sort of “wish list” kind of target after the minimum. The tipping point or minimum was $19 000 and the dream goal was $22 000 The campaign raised $21 000 in the end for which Hifa is grateful to all who contributed to the campaign.

Q: Since you retained Sounds Vantastic, why did this year’s Hifa experience many sound glitches particularly on the ZOL Main stage?

A: There is one glitch that I am aware of which occurred just before the Opening Show (Mahube a southern African collaboration directed by Steve Dyer which featured local artistes like Oliver Mtukudzi and Hope Masike). Technical glitches happen all the time at concerts but Hifa is fortunate that the glitches it has experienced have usually been small ones. On this occasion it was caused by a cable that links two mixing desks which unexpectedly developed a fault and had to be replaced completely. It was completely unexpected as the system had been tested from four days before the show and had gone through days of dress rehearsals. Even the best machinery develops unexpected faults sometimes, as anyone who has ever been on an aeroplane can testify.

Q: Why did the Things Fall Apart show featuring Netsayi and Black Pressure fail to take place on May 6?

A: It stemmed from a key band member being unable to be in the country on time. The show was replaced with an alternative one.

Q: What became of the Concert with one thousand voices that you had promised?

A: The concert requires extensive travel throughout the country. The country’s cash crisis caused the postponement of this show but will still be held (including the country-wide talent selection) in the near future.

Q: Can we be optimistic about the next Hifa?

A: If Hifa could happen under the severe conditions presented in 2017, there is definitely reason to be optimistic about Hifa 2018. So in short: yes, we can be optimistic, very optimistic. Dates for the next edition will be released soon.

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