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HIFA: Haven of Freedom

Platform where people can express themselves freely

Published on 18 September 2011

Author(s): Stephen Matinanga

Type:  News Newsletter Hivos International 2 - 2011

In a repressive society like Zimbabwe, the Harare International Festival of the Arts is a haven of freedom of expression. It is critical and daring but nevertheless manages to attract over 50,000 visitors without being disturbed.

HIFA is arguably the most important and successful annual event on Zimbabwe’s arts calendar. Running for one week, the festival brings together people from all walks of life in Zimbabwe and visitors from abroad.

Together, they totally immerse themselves in making art, or enjoying it, or both. Interspaced between a wide variety of entertainment and performances, there are other activities taking place which include artistic debates and discussions, skills training workshops, and press conferences.

Hivos Poetry Café

HIFA provides a platform where artists and audiences alike can express themselves freely. The festival therefore fits perfectly with our campaign 'Hivos gives people a voice'. One of the HIFA venues is the Hivos Poetry Café, where the Spoken Word programme takes place.

Thanks to Hivos support, this venue has become one of the liveliest programmes at HIFA, attracting professional poets from all over the world. Young hip-hop artists perform alongside the more mature traditional poets to provide an amazing and powerful blend of creative work through their poetry and spoken words.

Engagement Party

This year’s festival theme, The Engagement Party, was indeed a call for the people to gather, celebrate, and think creatively about all manner of engagement in a carnival atmosphere. As part of the party, Hivos (the largest donor to HIFA) sponsored the musical group Tcheka from Cape Verde, and Black Jacks (a.k.a BLK JKS) from Soweto, South Africa.

“Personally, I feel that HIFA is an inspiring and uplifting event. During HIFA, everybody shares in the wholehearted enjoyment of art as it speaks to us across every barrier, of the greatest hopes and darkest fears that we share as human beings.”

No fringe

HIFA venues are spread all over Harare and in other dormitory towns like Chitungwiza. The only down-side of this beautiful event is the demise of the “HIFA fringe”, where artists not participating in the mainstream HIFA would perform.

The fringe gave young and ambitious artists the opportunity to show-case their talent to professional talent scouts. In the last two years, I witnessed some acts which started by performing in the fringe several years earlier, coming back to perform at HIFA as highly polished and acclaimed professionals.

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