Zimbabwe’s arts community has every reason to be overjoyed by the recent confirmation by the management of the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) that Zimbabwe’s biggest arts event will indeed bounce back in May after an 18-month hiatus.
Since its inception in 1999 right up to the 2015 edition, Hifa consistently stood out as an oasis of hope in a country where the economy was stagnating and corporate sponsorship drying up. While most events and corporates were buckling up under the weight of serious economic challenges, Hifa organisers somehow came up with innovative ways to make the internationally-acclaimed festival stay afloat despite the serious economic and viability threats it faced.
But with most of its corporate sponsors and partners struggling to make it, Zimbabwe’s best arts event decided to cancel the 2016 edition in order to step back, reinvent and come back bigger and better in 2017.
We therefore hope that the return of the event, once rated by CNN as one of the top seven arts festivals on the African continent, will offer increased opportunities to local artists to showcase their talent alongside international stars.
Hopefully, the 18-month break enabled the festival to come up with more enduring funding models, which will insulate the international arts event from the serious effects triggered by the country’s wobbling economy.
More importantly, as Hifa bounces back after more than a year out, its organisers must never forget that they weathered so many storms since 1999, largely due to observing good corporate governance principles. As such, the forthcoming event must be better organised than previous ones.
The beautiful Hifa dream should never be allowed to die because it has become much more than a mere arts event.
According to Hifa associate executive director Tafadzwa Simba, the festival, on average, provides opportunities to over a thousand artistes to perform each year.
He claimed that a record 1 041 artists took part in the 2015 Hifa edition.
We hope that the addition of two new venues will also translate into even more artistes taking part at Hifa against a backdrop of increased opportunities for artistes across all genres of the arts. For the festival to enhance its relevance to the generality of Zimbabweans, it must continue to create local shows for local artists. For example, the venue once named Coca-Cola Green could increase concerts for local upcoming artistes.