The Deputy Minister of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services, Supa Mandiwanzira, last week applauded the re-launch of Inxusa Theatre Festival at Amakhosi Cultural Centre in his speech in Bulawayo.
Mandiwanzira, who arrived at the venue just before dusk and went on to plant an indigenous tree, also toured the premises, including the proposed offices for a radio station should Amakhosi be granted a licence by the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe.
Speaking after watching a Women in Theatre play at the centre’s main stage, Mandiwanzira praised Amakhosi founder and director Cont Mhlanga for his “immense” contribution to the local arts industry.
“I feel proud and privileged to be here and to be associated with Amakhosi and Cont Mhlanga. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is my first time here, but names like Cont have been consistently present in the arts industry.
“We all have to acknowledge their value and contribution and I just hope that one day, Government will find a way to honour and reward people like Cont. They are few and generations apart, but I wish there could be more people like him — our arts industry would be in a much better shape,” he said.
Mandiwanzira said his ministry, which is led by Professor Jonathan Moyo, “a man passionate about the arts”, was doing everything in its power to ensure that artistes can import important equipment for their trade duty-free.
“Our artistes are struggling because of lack of equipment. We have to assist them get the equipment they need into the country duty-free. That will definitely grow the industry and create the much-needed employment,” he said.
The House of Assembly member for Nyanga South said as a billion-dollar industry, the artiste would then be expected to pay their taxes and ensure that they contribute significantly to the country’s gross domestic product.
Deputy Minister Mandiwanzira said festivals like Inxusa and several other programmes that are run by organisations like Amakhosi were going to become very critical to the arts industry in the near future.
“We are also rushing to meet the deadline of the transition from analogue to digital technology. A lot of television and radio stations are going to be created and we are going to require all these festivals to provide these new channels with fresh content,” he said.
Inxusa Festival ran from Tuesday March 25 at Amakhosi and ended yesterday. Several universities and colleges attended the five-day event, which aims to empower the youth with skills to become professional artistes. Inxusa Theatre Festival was founded by Amakhosi Theatre at Stanley Hall and Square in Makokoba, Bulawayo, in 1990 where it presented a six-week theatre marathon of plays all written and directed by Mhlanga as a way of celebrating the group’s 10 years in the theatre industry.
The festival was suspended in 1999 for re-designing and focusing as it was fast growing towards becoming a huge music festival and not a theatre festival with a mission.
“We had to suspend it briefly for a variety of reasons, chief among them being that we had successfully managed to make Bulawayo fall in love with Oliver Mtukudzi and Thomas Mapfumo, among many other top Zimbabwean artistes, and the festival became musical.
“They had come in just as facilitators of workshops but later we convinced them to stage a show or two. That is where we lost the plot and everything went wrong as the festival was taken over by music,” said Mhlanga.
Mhlanga added that the major reason for the delayed re-launch of Inxusa was the country’s major economic recession that gathered momentum at the turn of the millennium and peaked around 2009.
An attempt to re-launch the festival while riding on South Africa’s 2010 World Cup fever dismally failed.
However, Amakhosi Theatre eventually found 2014 as the opportune year to finally re-launch the festival.
It is with this background that the planting of the indigenous tree by Mandiwanzira, who is heavily invested in the arts and culture sector, dovetails with Amakhosi Cultural Centre and Inxusa Theatre Festival’s mission.
“This occasion is important to the institution as it marks the planting to the nation of Amakhosi’s Vision 2025. The ground-breaking of the cultural centre on March 25 1995 was marked by a tree-planting ceremony of eight indigenous trees each representing a creative arts discipline that is taught and practised at the Multi-Arts Cultural Centre. So the tradition continues,” said Mhlanga.
Amakhosi invited artistes from across Zimbabwe, entertainment journalists, arts teachers, arts lecturers and the people of Bulawayo and surrounding areas to the re-launch of Inxusa Festival, making the ceremony a well-attended show.
Besides the play, I Stop, written by Thembelihle Moyo, Mhondiwa Mhepo and Scra Mudala and directed by Thulani Mbabo, the opening night was packed with activities.
A Women in Theatre play, Song of a Woman, left many in the audience deeply touched as the drama delved into the day-to-day lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.
The play told a Zimbabwean story through extremely talented actors and actresses that often left the audience in stitches with powerful one-liners and rib-crackers.
However, it was the energetic one-hour performance by internationally renowned dance troupe Umkhathi Theatre Works which left several in attendance spellbound.
The rest of the week then saw several workshops, more plays and performances from the different universities and hired professional groups.
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