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Engaging protest poetry at festival

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Savanna Trust, a local arts development organisation, recently held its second Protest Arts International Festival at the University Of Zimbabwe, which featured participants from five African countries.

The participants were drawn from Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The festival, held under the theme “Imagining and Inventing the Future”, opened with an intimate yet vibrant crowd that was treated to some engaging poetry and music.

It challenged protest and cultural artists and researchers to engender and envision democratic spaces for the socio-political development of their societies.

“The three-day festival, with the goal of facilitating the development of critical arts, spectatorship and citizenry, opened with a calabash of community theatre and amateur productions”, said Savanna Trust spokesperson, Tenford Chitanana.

He said the productions saw university students, academics, social activists and community theatre practitioners interacting in an engaging marathon of theatre and poetry whose storylines revolved around themes of human rights, democracy and the human quest for justice.

In his opening remarks the Savanna Trust board chair Sydney Chisi said there was need for theatre practitioners to know whom to adress their protest to.

“Theatre practitioners must research from grassroots level and then capitalise on their God-given talents in communicating what they would have researched and artists should take advantage of opportunities like the democratic space of the inclusive government, and the constitution-making process,” he said.

Chisi said artists were sometimes confronted with censorship, arrests and countless threats, but there was need for resilience to achieve the ideals of democracy.

Festival director Daniel Maposa reiterated that protest art was not merely a tool for lampooning contemporary political or economic systems or venting outrage, but played an initiatory and active role in raising issues and practices that could enhance democratic processes.

He said they saw the festival as an opportunity to bring together artists and academia, not only to break barriers of a shrunken democratic space, but to nurse and pursue the discourse on development and fostering civic participation through the arts.

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