Renowned playwright, educationist and arts critic Stephen Chifunyise has hailed the creative arts industry in Zimbabwe, acknowledging it is one of the most vibrant in Africa owing to the number of events hosted by the continent.
Zimbabwe alone has on its annual calendar domestic arts and cultural showcases that include the Inthwasa Arts and Chirorodziva festivals and many other city and province centred ones which culminate in the Harare Festival of the Arts in April of every year.
“Many people who gathered for this year’s edition of HIFA confirmed the excellent creativity in our African people and admitted it is very rare to see a diversity of genres under one roof. Yes, the artists may not have instantly benefitted in the form of sales of their wares, but they did make contacts which are critical for future use and for purposes of networking going into the future,” he noted.
Through being seen and getting known, they would then stand a chance to get invited to other events of a similar nature, he added.
“A case in point is a band from Botswana that I saw and spoke with. They did not know how good they really are until they got appreciated by the crowd here after a performance at the Main Stage.”
“It is my wish that we could have similar functions of such a magnitude in other places such as Gaborone, Windhoek and Maputo, among many other cities on the continent so that we afford a broader platform for our artists to showcase themselves and the stuff that they are made of.”
Chifunyise, who is the Principal of the Zimbabwe Academy of Arts Education for Development (ZAAED) and over the years has been involved in cultural policy formulation and evaluation in Africa, said events like HIFA rubber-stamp the African Union’s desire for the creation of a common cultural market.
“There are not many – if any – places in the whole world where one finds thousands of people interfacing in an environment where they also have the privilege to walk from hotel to hotel at midnight. This is not common elsewhere in Africa. What is unfortunate is that our media has not been able to project this uniqueness that our streets are as free as it is inside the walls of HIFA,” he said.
He said there was need for corporates to support domestic, national and international festivals, as financial aid is the lifeblood of such activities. Chifunyise noted that while Zimbabwe as a country could capitalize on the fact that it has musical genres that are non-existent in other parts of the world such as the Mbira, traditional music in general as well as Zim Dancehall, there was great need to market them all over the world by, for instance, twinning.
Over the past three decades, Chifunyise has contributed in particular to the evaluation of cultural policies in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mauritius and is a founding member of the Observatory on Cultural Policies in Africa.
He also held the post of Director of Cultural Services in Zambia and Permanent Secretary for Education, Sport and Culture in the Government of Zimbabwe. Playing a prominent role in the development of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Arts and Culture Festivals from 1994 to 2000, he also chaired the Southern African Film Festival (1990 -1996).