The ongoing Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) has been in the past criticised for being elitist and providing little value to local artists. But, in this edition, several local artists have teamed up with international acts in various collaborative initiatives.
In the past two decades, contemporary art has undergone a social and collaborative ‘turn’ as a result of the influencing nature of digital and new media, developments which have shattered boundaries and opened up the process of creation and networking. This means that the focus of many artists has shifted away from mere production of art to creative facilitation of social relations, dialogue, and collaboration.
Local artists have greatly benefited from the synergies offered through participation at the festival. One such exciting group is Zimboita formed by two drumming virtuosos, Zimbabwean Blessing Chimanga and Italian Massimo Covini. The name of the group is a constellation of the two cultures, hence Zimboita, and embodies cross-cultural experimentation and the fusion of musical styles from two very different corners of the world.
Jamaram, a Munich-based group of musicians who mainly play reggae, funk, Latin and blues are sharing the stage with acclaimed Zimbabwean artists, the Acoustic Night Allstars, a group of musicians who have honed their skill playing at the Zimbabwe German Society. Some of whom include, Tariro neGitare and PrayerSoul.
Kunzwana #1 is a musical journey featuring Austrian and Zimbabwean musicians to produce a new genre of breathtaking cross-cultural world music. The Austrians join the local duo of singing and mbira prodigy Hope Masike and bass guitar star Josh Meck.
The transitional, temporary, and experimental nature of collaborative art practices offers opportunities for assessing important social and global issues without the pressure of having to come up with bilateral agreements and decisions.
Most of these projects, unique to HIFA, are special in their focus on process as well as product. There are many lessons that accrue. How do we make what we make meaningful? What do we learn about our own art, and about communication, when we collaborate? What do traditional arts mean to us in a world of instant information?
HIFA lives to its international bill. Each concert is fresh and surprising, inviting audiences into the process of collaboration as well as its thrilling results.