The Sunday Mail
OVER the years, the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) has been known to up the game by ensuring that all its programmes from the “Opening Show” to the “Closing Act” are top class and unique.
This year is no different — an exciting programme, which caters for all Hifa audiences, has been put together. Running under the theme “Articulate”, the festival starts this Tuesday April 28 and for six days, the capital city and its environs will be a hive of activity.
From the high-density suburb of Mbare to the serenity of Avondale and all major venues in between — artistes will take turns to thrill arts lovers.
However, it is the opening show dubbed “The Power of Many”, which is likely to steal the thunder from tens of other events that make up one of Africa’s seven biggest festivals.
Featuring internationally renowned musical outfit Mokoomba, the opening ceremony will combine a plethora of local and international artistes in a fusion of art that is likely to leave many spellbound.
The Sunday Mail Leisure caught up with Hifa founder and artistic director Manuel Bagoro who not only believes that this is the best Hifa ever but has put together an exceptional opening show.
Q: How different is this year’s festival from past editions?
A: I think each festival starts to absorb its own personality as a result of so many different factors that play into what a festival is. What I think is particularly significant about this year is that there is a distinct shift to consider the needs and interests of a younger audience. You know, it’s an odd conundrum because one wants to engage a young audience. Every arts presenter and promoter across the globe is looking to engage young audiences but at the same time not have a radical shift in what it is you are trying to do. With Hifa what I hope is that what we have is the right balance. We have a lot of different types of programming that are specifically targeted at new interests in music, burgeoning interests in music.
Q: What can festival-goers expect for the opening show, especially considering that you as the artistic director are quite invested in it?
A: I’m invested in every show that happens at Hifa. That is the role of an artistic director. It is important that every show has the same level of attention. However, the opening show is a very special moment for the festival and I think that this is the moment where one can take the temperature of the artistic community and what people are interested in seeing.
The opening show is a statement of intent for the festival. It is an indication of what we want to do artistically and what we feel is significant on the idea and curation side.
And this year we have a wonderful departure, it’s a new idea, we are featuring a band, Mokoomba. It is a group with which the festival has been associated for several years, as an organisation that really promoted the band in their early years, recognising the incredible talent within this group of musicians.
And really allowing the opening show to celebrate what it is that they are doing particularly outside the country but also in Zimbabwe. It’s about this wonderful musical vein of wealth that Mokoomba offers and surrounding it with a celebration of what the festival is.
So Mokoomba is at the core and surrounding that are the sights, sounds, dance, theatre and visual arts. The festival embraces this to create a multi-disciplinary exuberant event that truly marks the start of a major international festival but also celebrates what it is that we are also proud of — the vibrant arts scene in Zimbabwe.
We have international artistes participating in the show, we have local artistes, we have spectacular visual elements and we have the incredible music of Mokoomba as the foundation. What I hope is that the show will tell a story of what is important about the arts for Zimbabweans and all humans.
The fact that the arts can say things that words cannot express — that feels to me like a perfect embodiment of what an opening show should do when the theme of the festival is “Articulate”.
Q: How has the pulling out of some sponsors this year affected the festival?
A: More time had to be spent on finding the investors who eventually did replace those who were not available to participate in this year’s edition. It was not an easy exercise but we are grateful for the new partnerships that arose from this exercise and grateful for the fact that the corporate partners who are on board are contributing to the success of the event.
Q: Apart from sponsorship issues, what other challenges have you encountered in running the festival over the years?
A: Apart from the difficult economic environment in which everyone and everything is operating, there have not been any major challenges. Hifa has also had to be more creative in trying to find alternatives to poster advertising given the new regulations around that. However, in the age of ubiquitous digital communication, that creativity is being realised through electronic media.
Q: What has been your major highlight(s) as the founder and artistic director of the festival?
A: Early on in the festival’s life, around the third year, there was a point when I came to realise that what had started out as a personal journey had become something which the artistic community in the country cared about and took ownership of. Cared about it so much as to see it as a national cause to which they would passionately contribute their input. That was extremely humbling and motivating.