Feeling the Arts Pulse at HIFA

MissingCrownHIFA presents fantastic opportunities for spontaneous networking. On May 1, I welcomed the opportunity presented by the Workers’ Day holiday, to go and enjoy the Youth Zone events with my children. Having found a parking spot right in front of the National Art Gallery, I thought of quickly informing Raphael Chikukwa, that I had already confirmed to Bjorn Maes via Facebook that I would be attending the book launch of artistic photographer Calvin Dondo.

Upon entering the National Art Gallery foyer, I found a rare but extremely important event taking place. Foreign and local HIFA artists had been put into groups according to their genres and were marketing themselves to prospective sponsors. I had a brief chat with Cde Fatso of Shoko Festival — a determined young man whom I have seen transforming from being a demagogue to a respected and professional festival organiser.

People like him are the ones that the draft Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy being developed by The Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture Arts in the arts and culture sector — is encouraging. Doers who make a real positive contribution to the country’s GDP, but also raising the country’s profile as well as creating opportunities for young people to express themselves and get exposure.

Potrait-artist-Farai-Chirumiko-shows-some-of-his-works-yesterday-at-the-on-going-Hifa-in-the-Harare-GardensSince I was not part of this HIFA networking and marketing programme for artists, I quickly exchanged greetings with Maria Wilson of HIFA, Daniel Maposa of Savanna Arts and Roberta Wagner of the Zimbabwe German Society, before leaving for the HIFA Youth Zone with my children. While my little ones got busy with the many activities at the Youth Zone, I got a chance to congratulate Mr Stephen Chifunyise for having made another HIFA Festival possible.

Very few people know or understand the back and forth meetings, negotiations, concessions and permissions required before a festival becomes reality. Naturally, my discussion with Mr Chifunyise drifted to the complaints I had received from arts and crafts people exhibiting at HIFA, that, City of Harare increased charges for them to sell their wares from $80 last year to $150.

The draft Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy talks about the need to create an enabling environment for arts and culture. Hopefully, the final document will not overlook transforming the challenges faced by artists and craftspeople into opportunities, because Government is encouraging these very same people to participate in promoting and safeguarding Zimbabwean indigenous languages, culture, heritage and Zimbabwean creative arts.

The draft policy document states that the success of the National Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy will depend on the full participation of the Zimbabwean society through public and private institutions. Although the policy document is still being fine-tuned, I am optimistic that it will take and leave us somewhere we have never been before as a people. After chatting with Mr Chifunyise, I got a chance to catch up on some creative writing project with Mr Tinashe Muchuri and also to hear from Elizabeth Muchemwa how the Royal Court Theatre workshop for playwrights that she is part of, is shaping up. I exchanged notes with Muchuri about a paper that was triggered by my ZIBF presentation where I was calling for our folktales to respond to social change and to be relevant to the modern audiences.

Elizabeth informed me that the British Council supported Royal Court theatre programme she is participating in will end with two theatre writers being chosen to be on a longer residence in the UK. I told her that just being given the opportunity to learn on the programme is good for personal development, and she agreed by saying that so far, the programme has been professionally rewarding.

With Tinashe Mushakavanhu, we talked about Novuyo-Rosa Tshuma and creative writing in general. Mushakavanhu is working on a documentary on Zimbabwean writers who write in English. In the spirit of the draft Arts, Culture and Heritage Policy document, efforts by Mushakavanhu need support, and must be extended to Zimbabwean writers writing in Shona like Aaron Chiunduramoyo, T.K Tsodzo, Willie Chigidi and others.

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By Ignatius Mabasa
May 3, 2014

Photo: Aaron Ufumeli/The Herald

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