Zimbabwe enters World Black Arts Festival

By Trudy Stevenson, Ambassador to Senegal

Zimbabwe is one of only two Southern African governments taking part in the 3rd World Black Arts Festival – FESMAN (Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres) – taking place 10 – 31 December in Dakar, South Africa being the other one. 

This major international arts and culture event opened Friday with the first in a series of Forums on black civilisation and culture, launched by Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade in the presence of government delegations from both other African countries and the Diaspora, especially the Americas. 

The opening concert at Leopold Senghor Stadium in the evening was a spectacular “Son et Lumière” in which 2000 dancers portrayed the history of black peoples from ancient Egypt through the slave trade up to the independence of African nations and the current African Renaissance movement. 

Three other heads of state gave messages of solidarity: Presidents Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, Sanha of Guinea Bissau and Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, while Haitian Wyclef Jean made a rallying call to the young, much appreciated by all present!

Individual performers included top musicians Ismael Lo, Ethiopian Muni Letsi, the South African Mahotella Queens and – most popular of all – Senegalese mbalax icon Youssou Ndour who had the entire stadium on their feet, joining in.

Ambassador Stevenson with pieces from Gutsa

Dr Marie Imbrova is officially representing Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture David Coltart.  Assisted by the National Gallery and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr Imbrova organised the shipment of some 38 stone sculptures and paintings now on exhibition at the Zimbabwe Embassy in Dakar. 

She has given two talks on contemporary Zimbabwe art, representing also the artists whose works are being exhibited, including Lazarus Takawira, Taylor Nkomo, Thakor Patel, Lovemore Kambudzi, Virginia Chihota, Victor Fire and Gideon Gomo, among others.  The Embassy held a very successful Preview Exhibition for the diplomatic community and media on 1 December. 

Meanwhile Tapfuma Gutsa has three pieces in the main Festival exhibition at the Biscuiterie, including “Nzuzi/Water Spirit”.  Unfortunately none of our invited artists (who included also dancers, film makers, authors, musicians, etc) has been able to afford the air ticket to attend, nor was government in a position to assist, this time round. 

We are therefore extremely grateful to President Mugabe for personally assisting us to bring a small selection of our wonderful Zimbabwe art works for display during the Festival.  We also issue a plea to the powers that be to consider hosting the next FESMAN in Zimbabwe, to show that Zimbabwe is Best!

Note: The first FESMAN was in Dakar in 1966, the second in Lagos, Nigeria in 1977. This third Festival is taking place over 30 years since the last one.