Image: Spotlight Zimbabwe
COMMENTARY

Will HIFA Turn To More Local Artists This Year?

HIFA is ranked in the top 10 of Africa's top cultural festivals

Harer International Festival of the Arts announced this year’s edition in a packed presser at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe today. It will run from the 1st to the 6th of May at its usual venue in the Harare Gardens. They promised us honey and milk as per every year’s standard. Our choice is to believe in them or ask several questions and I do a have a few.

HIFA is ranked in the top 10 of Africa’s top cultural festivals by The Culture Trip, pitting it against the Dakar Biennale and the Gnaoua World Music Festival. As it stands amongst the giants in continental cultural events, HIFA organisers have a tough task of making sure that their festival remains fresh, relevant and exciting. That is where most Zimbabwean events fail to hit the mark.

HIFA presents its programme to a majority of local festival-goers who are hungry to see their different cultures represented in the arts activities happening there. The art form with the biggest pull is the music of course. This has been a bone of contention between the festival goers and a lot of art practitioners in the recent years.

According to the festival’s Executive Director Mara Wilson on the HIFA website,

Conversely, the HIFA Team truly believes in what the Festival stands for: a non-racial, multi-gender, multi-cultural, multi-political, multi-aged event that shows what Zimbabwe could be.

After reading a statement like this, one would be led to think that HIFA’s representation of Zimbabwe should be led by the art form that pulls the biggest crowd, music. However, in the recent years, HIFA has managed to break out a lot of foreign acts, giving them an opportunity at the big stage which they would not normally get in the countries they are based in. All this is at the expense of local talent which has been left in the cold or placed at free stages in the CBD.

In as much as the stage opportunities are welcome no matter how small they are, when is HIFA going to give more young local artists who have exhibited huge potential in their performance? They are not a lot of local festivals that can fit most of the musicians that we have in Zimbabwe. Some perform genres that do not fit the adrenaline-fueled alcohol craze that is our local concerts most of which have found their home at the Harare International Conference Center. If not HIFA, the longest running cultural festival in Zimbabwe, which other festivals will entice corporates to invest in emerging talent?

I would never want to burden the organisers who are obviously running on a tight budget due to the prevailing economic situation. Also, these guys have been doing an amazing job just by keeping the festival alive. However, if they want to purport to project an ideal Zimbabwe at their festival, they better showcase it through the best of local acts who deserve the stage and not fill up the programme with acts who have failed to grow from the opportunities they got to perform at the festival before.

All I am asking is for an awesome and true representation of our arts. Just like this year’s theme says, “We Count”, we are counting down to the year HIFA puts Zimbabwean music first. Let’s present the new Zimbabwe in its real form!

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Free Thinker. Loud. Another inhabitant of Terra Firma. I am not your favourite person. Neither do I plan to be. But you will know my opinion. In fact, you will love it.

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