By Ruth Butaumocho and Lovemore Meya
Zimbabwe’s biggest arts showcase, the Harare International Festival of the Arts, exploded to life on Tuesday night with an exhilarating performance that ignited a revelling mood among thousands of people who turned up at the Harare Gardens.
The grand opening, a uniquely powerful Zimbabwean act that was made possible with the effort of 170 artistes, turned out to be a powerful and awesome act that aptly captured all the events that will run throughout the week.
Dubbed “A Show of Spirit”, it was indeed a massive display of togetherness, as artistes went through the paces of a dynamic and energy sapping performance which was a medley of art forms. Although music was the predominant genre, other art forms like dance, mime and poetry where showcased in an outstanding way, breathing life into the fete that had started on a low note.
Even the cosmopolitan crowd responded passionately and could be seen singing along to familiar tunes like “Unity” originally done by Black Mambazo, the yesteryear hit track “Jongwe NaChikwari” and several songs that were composed mainly for the official opening.
The beauty about the performance was that it also brought to the fore, little known, but revered traditional dances like the Tonga that are often performed within communities and are hardly showcased in front of big crowds.
Mbira sensation Chiwoniso Maraire and John Pfumojena together with the group Moke sent the crowd into delirium with their fine-tuned performance. Chiwoniso was dressed in a brown, blue and green outfit, blending well with colour theme for this year’s edition of Hifa.
Their act — a near flawless one — spiced up the official opening. Internationally acclaimed poet Gilda Rander enthralled the crowd with a piece titled, “I Wanted a Perfect Ending”.
“Now I have learned, the hard way, that sometimes poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end . . . taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen . . .”
After exactly one hour and 15 minutes, fireworks illuminated the sky, signalling the end of the performance and the beginning of the 13th edition of the Harare International Festival of the Arts.