Hifa 2020 hangs in the balance Maria Wilson

Jonathan Mbiriyamveka

It appears the creative sector continues to suffer death by a thousand cuts as this year’s edition of the Harare International Festival (Hifa) of the Arts hangs in the balance due to financial constraints.

In an exclusive interview, Maria Wilson the executive director of Hifa was at pains to explain whether or not there is going to be a festival this year after it was not held last year.

“Hifa’s greatest block is always financial. Therefore, in order to ascertain whether the festival can happen, I need some guarantees from Hifa’s major financial backers which is the Zimbabwe corporate community.

“In this time of terribly confusing economics, the corporate community are unsure whether they can back Hifa to levels that the festival needs to put an event that can have the label ‘Hifa’,” said Wilson.

Turning to the artists, Maria said there was still great enthusiasm to perform although they were also looking at being paid.

“In terms of artists, both visiting and local are keen to perform, but again, need some financial reassurances. This is very difficult to give at this time,” she said.

Pressed to comment on what needs to be done for the festival to be held this year considering there are less than two months before the usual time for the festival – April, Wilson said: “I’m therefore waiting to get a better idea from the business community as to where they stand on financially sustaining the festival.

“From the general environment point of view, I will need the definite support of Government to put up Hifa 2020. I’m still trying to sort out issues in that area.”

She however said if they get a bit of support by monthend, they may be able to do a substantive event.

“It may not be on the scale of the past events, but it will be good. From an arts and culture perspective and just general social development, Hifa needs desperately to happen,” she explained.

Hifa which has helped a lot of artistes grow is a big budget showcase. The six-day festival which was not held last year would have marked its 20th anniversary this year.

The failure to stage the six-day cultural and art extravaganza has dealt a big blow to the creative industry since it is a huge platform for showcasing Zimbabwe’s uninhibited talent. There are also other spin-offs for the festival which include boosting Harare’s tourism as up to 200 foreign artists and between 1 000 to 1 300 local performing artists converge for the weeklong fest. 

Hifa also feeds into downstream industry for service providers who support or work with the festival.

Over and above this, Hifa has made a huge impact in the development of Zimbabwe’s socio-economic sphere as well as shaping the artistic discourse.

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