Festivals must focus more on local talent

HARARE - Dates for this year’s edition of Shoko Festival were announced last week, just a few days after the end of another equally big and internationally acclaimed local arts event  — the Miombo Magic Music Festival.

While arts lovers are obviously looking ahead to the seventh edition of Shoko Festival that will run in Harare from September 29 to October 1 at the Zimbabwe Museum of Human Sciences along Rotten Row, one thing is clear — local arts festivals are under threat due to dwindling donor and corporate support.

The situation is so bad that there won’t be a 2018 edition of the annual Miombo Magic Music Festival, which has been held consistently since 2011 in Christon Bank suburb, Harare.

Not surprisingly, the organisers of the event have blamed the postponement of next year’s edition on the country’s deepening economic challenges.

Just like the Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa), that postponed its 2016 edition in order to buy itself some time to re-strategise, Miombo is also hoping that a year out will enable them to bounce back better and stronger in 2019.

Hopefully, Shoko Festival will follow suit and postpone their 2018 edition.

But even if they don’t, we hope they, along with the other arts festivals in the country, now realise that it is no longer business as usual.

Local arts festivals have no choice but to devise more long-term funding models that will insulate them from the impacts of Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.

Our arts festivals have to come up with programmes that appeal to a wider mix of arts fans. More importantly, Zimbabwean arts festivals can no longer afford to bring foreign artistes just for the sake of it.

Going forward, only notable foreign artistes with the ability to lure crowds have to be hired because they come at a huge cost.

Zimbabwean festivals, at least in this current economic climate, also need to focus more on local talent.

If they hire top local artistes and charge reasonable entry fees, we are convinced they will attract more Zimbabwean fans who, until now, have stayed away because our festivals have not put into consideration their interests.

One way of identifying local artistes that Hifa, Miombo and Shoko could hire is to ask members of the public to vote for their favourite acts. The uproar caused by the fact that Winky D played only three songs when he featured on music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi’s set at this year’s Hifa definitely shows that there is a huge appetite for shows by local artistes.

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