THE curtain finally came down on the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) after a six-day programme on Sunday night at Harare Gardens.
BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
Surrounding areas in the capital and the local arts industry can now catch its breath following an exhilarating and sometimes breath-taking extravaganza.
South African Afro-fusion band Freshlyground put up a captivating performance on the ZOL Main Stage, as they wrapped up the festival that roared to life last Tuesday under the theme We Count.
The Mzansi group made a return to Hifa after they were deported in 2014 by former President Robert Mugabe’s government following the release of their Chicken to Change song, which mocked the ousted leader.
And just to spice things up, Freshlyground sang the song to an appreciative crowd late into Sunday evening.
Hifa founder and artistic director, Manuel Bagorro said a change in government in Zimbabwe made it possible for the group to come to the country.
“More importantly, the coming of Freshlyground to the festival was about music, about celebrating Zimbabwe and celebrating Hifa. I am very grateful to the group, they have persevered, they love being at Hifa, they love Zimbabwe and like all about they are looking at the future of Zimbabwe and hoping to contribute in a positive way,” he said.
Throughout their set, Freshlyground, with hits songs such as Nomvula, Coming Over, Refugee, Shake It, Doo Be Doo and a rendition of Waka Waka, kept the crowd on their toes, with lead singer Zolani showcased her lyrical prowess and stage presence.
The highlight of their performance was when they were joined by local mbira queen, Hope Masike on the stage to perform their collaboration, Stimela, off their new album.
Masike yesterday said it was fun to be among the performers at the festival, as she learnt a lot and had networking and collaboration opportunities.
“It’s fun as always. It was a great concert for my fans before I go on tour. I will be back on the stage in Zimbabwe in August,” she said.
This year’s festival, unlike previous editions, generally attracted smaller crowds, with the only notable shows that enticed huge numbers being that of local dancehall singer, Winky D and South African artistes Beatenberg, Lira and Freshlyground.
The show ended with a magnificent fireworks display that lit up Harare Gardens, washing up the night sky with spectacular colours.
Bagorro described the festival as a resounding success and said he hoped next year’s would be better.
“Hifa 2018 feels like the most celebratory, most unifying event we have ever done,” he said.
“There was a real feeling, as we were looking to the future and acknowledging the past, but also really celebrating what is possible in Zimbabwe.
“Whether it was a music show, dance or theatre or visual artist, it was just a beautiful celebration of what Zimbabwe is about,” he
“There are many opportunities that exist with the festival. What I am interested in at the moment is the programming that exists throughout the year in order to build to specific projects for Hifa projects in schools that would develop over the year and are then showcased at the festival,” he said.
While arts critics have been calling for renewal of ideas and programming to bring back the “wow” factor to the festival, Bagorro said they dealt with artistes that are adored by the audiences and those that are committed to supporting Hifa.
“Most international arts festivals bring the same people because they are the ones known by the audiences, they are the ones loved by the audiences and also they are the artists that are committed to supporting Hifa,” he said.
“Particularly when circumstances are tough, we rely on our friends and we all understand that and sometimes we rely on our friends as Hifa.
“We go to people that have been here before and we state to them, ‘this is a difficult year for Hifa and it’s a difficult year for Zimbabwe, come be part of the festival’ and I can tell you the answer is always ‘yes’.”
Bagorro said the returning of the same faces to the festival was something to appreciate and celebrate than to criticise.