Monica Cheru-Mpambawashe Lifestyle Editor
Sixteen years ago a dream came to life after years of one man working hard to convince other people to buy into his vision of making Harare an arts and cultural mecca, at least for six days in a year. The man was founder and artistic director Manuel Bagorro and the dream is the Harare International Festival of the Arts, the annual extravaganza that has come to be a central point in the cultural calendar of just not Zimbabweans, but many others as well.
In 2014 Hifa was listed by CNN as one of the top seven African arts festivals alongside The Victoria Falls Carnival and the Moroccan Marrakesh festival among others. Each edition of Hifa is a triumph of resilience and the enduring belief in that vision that led to its birth.
The 16th edition is running under the theme ‘Articulate’ and as always focuses on unleashing talent. Hifa is a mixed bag of various genres from all over the world as well as being a platform for locals to experience some of the home-grown talent that they would never otherwise bump into in their usual lifestyles.
For a lot of people the actual acts are in reality a sidebar to the mixing and mingling that can only be found on the Coca Cola Green. This has become a hangout centre where everyone you meet is a potential mate to have fun with as you buy into the spirit of the festival. With food and beverage stalls all around, relations are sealed the traditional African way; on full stomachs.
So far star attractions have been totally eclectic with Mokoomba’s opening act, Somi Sobral’s unsurpassable performance, the peace-inducing sounds of KZN String Quartet and The Simon and Garfunkel Story on the music front.
The Hifa Design Showcase and the Simba Youth Zone have also had their full offerings, the same as the visual arts and crafts sections. The Chinese acrobats represented by the Tianjin Youth Beijing Opera Troupe gave their usual superb fiesta which is a tribute to exquisite costumes, perfectly synchronised choreography and unbelievably talented performers. Sounds like a cliché, but it really has been a full week.
The good part is that although there is only one day to go, there is still a lot to do. Today Victor Kunonga hosts Ramin Khalatbari while on Sunday Shree Vasuki Cultural group all the way from India is set to charm audiences with Ras and Garba folk dances, a la Bollywood as they dance ‘on the line between mysticism and reality’.
Then revellers gather their final breaths as the show moves up yet another gear for the closing fireworks which have become a beloved tradition in the city before the “Mansa of Mali”, Salif Keita, brings the curtain down on the festival in a show beginning at nine in the evening.
The “man of colour” will prove once again that the world is one globe transcending skin colour, race tribe or religion when he tackles these issues through some of his popular songs like “Soro”, “Kon-Yan”, “M’Bemba”, “La Diferrence” and “Nos Pas Bourger”.
Then the Hifa team will take a break to regenerate then get back to the hard task of working magic so that come 2016, we call all live again for another six days.
Yes, the festival has had its controversies, but there is no denying that it has earned its place in the heart of many people who pray that the dream continues to live and thrive.