Haitian singer Emeline Michel at HIFA. Photo: Margerie VacleHarare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) is an annual festival showcasing a program of music, theatre, fine arts, dance and spoken word.

“Given that Zimbabwe has for a long time been staging a drama before a worldwide audience, it’s amazing that anyone felt it necessary to mount an arts festival. But someone did 10 years ago, and the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) has been running ever since. Perhaps when the world is looking in your direction and counting down to economic and civil collapse, the only thing to do is to build a giant stage and start thinking the impossible.” The Observer, 4 May 2008.

By Hege Aasgaard, Mimeta

HIFA began in 1999 and since then has taken the Zimbabwean and Southern African arts scene by storm. The Festival showcases the best of local, regional and international performances and fine arts. The festival turned Harare life upside down with energy and life from April 27 to May 2 at venues in and around the capital. Most performances took place in the beautiful Harare Gardens Site where there were four stages, workshops studios, a poetry café and a huge variety of food and drink outlets. This year’s HIFA opened with an amazing Zimbabwean performance of classical work directed by La Fura Dels Baus from Spain and performed by more than a hundred local singers and dancers. Throughout the week everything from opera to reggae, from ballet to street dance, and clever theatre plays were on the program. All of the shows creating a happy and relaxed atmosphere. The diverse audience were dancing to Suluman Chimbetu and Senegalese music icons Xalam. People were embracing Emeline Michel dubbed the “Joni Mitchell of Haiti”, and celebrated Jamaican dub poet Yasus Afari. Local poet Comrade Fatso had conceptualised MOTO! An explosive project uniting some of Southern Africa’s most powerful voices taking the Southern Africans through their painful journey of struggles and injustices towards a place of hope and future.

The Royal Norwegian Embassy presented Women Calling – a beautiful blend of dance and music that embraces jazz, African traditional, Norwegian Folk, improvisation and the notion of universal womanhood. The British Embassy and British Council gave us The Magnets, CULTURESFRANCE and Embassy of France presented the wonderful Salif Keita from Mali, and Pamberi Trust was funding the Moreira project. The programme was amazing, encompassing more diversity and innovation than any previous HIFA.

Despite two elections, cholera epidemic, inflation and the transition to the American dollar HIFA is still going strong. Each festival has a theme and this year it was ABOUT FACE, signifying amongst many things; hope, transformation, new beginnings and optimism, a change of attitude and above all, the facing and acknowledgement of the past while looking forward to a brighter future. According to founder and executive director Manuel Bagorro, the theme ”offers an exciting opportunity for artistes, for community leaders and for all creative thinkers" a platform for meaningful conversations about opposing points of view.

"All of us artists involved felt as if we were given a window into what could be. As fireworks went off over the heads of thousand of dreamers we all dreamt of a peaceful country without tortured bodies and burnt homes. For the one week of the festival we believed. For one week we had a window into the future. And it’s beautiful" Local poet Comrade Fatso ‘s Blog, CNN.com

AuthorCato Litangen