via Minister Kanengoni-Malinga questions Hifa 09 February 2014 by Jeffrey Murimbechi Sunday Mail
Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) has come under heavy criticism from the Deputy Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Tabeth Kanengoni-Malinga, who alleges that the event appears to benefit local artistes only for its short duration and does not reap long-term benefits for up-and-coming indigenes.
According to the Hifa official website, “Hifa is a six-day annual festival and workshop programme that showcases the very best of local, regional and international arts and culture in a comprehensive festival programme of theatre, dance, music, circus, street performance, spoken word and visual arts.”
But the deputy minister questioned its committee, heritage and material.
“The bottom line about Hifa is that it is not an indigenous product and it does not serve the interests of the indigenous people of Zimbabwe. This is manifest in the composition of the decision-makers, the nature of content and its apparent lack of legacy. It has a large hype when in session, but there is nothing to show for it thereafter in the economy or livelihoods of the local artistes who at most times perform for free or at fringe stages,” she said.
She went further to castigate Hifa for what she believes is a disservice to local craftsmen and artistes who expect the festival to offer more business opportunities for them both locally and abroad and called for permutations in the livelihoods of artistes.
“There should be a deliberate inclusion of the grassroots. There should be a measurable contribution to the livelihoods of the artistes, an injection into the economy, a legacy in the host city and a contribution to social cohesion as opposed to the promotion of a particular taste of the arts.”
Hifa head of communications and community Tafadzwa Simba argues that the festival is very much an indigenous product mainly in favour of locals, substantiating his claims by the festival’s track record.
“Hifa derives its identity from the place where it originated and has always been held, which is the capital city of Zimbabwe. Of the total of 1 110 artistes who featured at Hifa last year, 811 were Zimbabwean. The rest were drawn from the rest of Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe and the Americas. Perusal of all of the past Hifa programmes will show this has been the annual trend.”
Answering to the allegation that the festival is not doing enough to assist with local artistes’ livelihoods, the Hifa spokesman said that Hifa is merely a platform meant to propel artistes to greater opportunities, and this cannot always be enumerated.
“Many Zimbabwean artistes have benefited greatly from projects in which they have participated at Hifa with the help of managers. For instance, the late Chiwoniso Maraire collaborated with many visiting artistes such as the Dutch group Moke, which directly led to a reciprocal invitation for Chiwoniso to perform in the Netherlands,” said Simba.
Statistics show that the 2013 edition of Hifa managed to employ 1 200 workers, trained and employed 65 street youths (who usually park cars) and 175 students were trained and employed. Apart from assisting and providing a stepping stone for artistes, Hifa has given back to the community through various projects which include free performances to prisoners.
“Hifa has been engaged in various urban regeneration exercises such as the use of wall murals to assist in the beautification of previously marginalised areas, Hifa has so far worked with visiting and local artistes on three murals in Mbare. Hifa has also gone out to some of the most outlying areas of the country to support and nurture artistes. Hifa has brought groups from as far as Bulilima-Mangwe, Chimanimani, Binga, Lupane, Victoria Falls and Hwange to perform at Hifa,” added the spokesman.
Both Hifa and Deputy Minister Kanengoni-Malinga, however, agree on the fact that there is more appreciation for local artistes outside Zimbabwe than locally, as evidenced by success stories from artistes such as Nancy Mteki, who made a name for herself in Scotland, and Netsayi, who was invited to perform with U2’s Bono after a lively performance in New York last year.
Deputy Minister Kanengoni-Malinga bemoans the lack of statutes that could assist artistes and boost the current efforts to promote local arts.