Harare Arts Festival Shines Spotlight On Zimbabwe’s Artists and Craftspeople


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Dance instructors Sharon Gweshe (center) and Debbie Fleming (left) lead a dance workshop at the Harare International Festival of the Arts, HIFA, on May 3. The annual HIFA brings together artists from various fields ranging from music, fashion, spoken word, visual arts and street performance, among others. Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe

The Harare International Festival of the Arts draws Zimbabwe’s artists and craftspeople together to showcase their work. Many small arts and crafts businesses use the opportunity to gain exposure with an international audience.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE — Harare Gardens, a peaceful place to lie on green grass, take photographs and chat on benches, is unrecognizable: Today, towering stages, blaring sound systems, colorful banners and exhibitor stalls dominate.

For six days in May, the park is transformed and the annual Harare International Festival of the Arts, HIFA, takes over. HIFA draws both local and international visitors to a diverse array of performances, including live music and theatrical productions, and offers a space for small businesses to market and sell their crafts.

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Attendees of the Harare International Festival of the Arts are taught to sculpt stone into objects of their choosing, like fish, birds and the map of Africa.

Gamuchirai Masiyiwa, GPJ Zimbabwe

This year’s theme, “Staging an Intervention,” featured various artists from Zimbabwe and abroad. Crafts and art from recycled trash dominated the exhibits.

The festival returned after a year-long break, a first since its inaugural show in 1999. The break was taken to give the event time to grow and “prepare for the next festival which we announced back then as being the 2017 edition,” says Tafadzwa Simba, HIFA’s associate executive director.

Each exhibitor paid $120 for the duration of the festival. Small arts and craft businesses take advantage of HIFA to expose their products to an international audience.

The festival also ran a successful crowd-funding campaign, which Simba says raised about $21,000.

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Martin Handirego teaches kids how to make bags out of used chip bags and empty juice boxes at the Harare International Festival of the Arts on May 3.

Tatenda Kanengoni, GPJ Zimbabwe

Pele Mukandawire Jameson, a visual artist who specializes in combining art and found objects that he recycles to create jewelry, details his craft.

“I collect anything that has been disposed of in the rubbish including technology pieces, such as TV aerials, to create my products,” Jameson says.

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Children’s faces are painted by the resident clown at the Harare International Festival of the Arts on May 4.

Kudzai Mazvarirwofa, GPJ Zimbabwe

One of the booths showcased arts and crafts made by prisoners as part of their rehabilitation.

“When a person is arrested, we try to teach them skills to survive on when they leave prison,” says Solomon Mutamba, provincial public relations officer for the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services.

Mutamba says it is their first time to exhibit at HIFA, and the feedback is positive.

“We have brought two prisoners and we want people to see their work so that they can place orders specific to the design they want,” he says.

Martin Handirego, 42, a vendor and farmer, has been making designer bags out of discarded plastics and boxes for six years.

“Making these bags isn’t my only job,” Handirego says. “But the recycling business gives me more income. I exhibit at every HIFA, and it provides me with a market for my staff, exposure and I get to acquire ideas from what other artists are doing.”

Lloyd Bisiwasi, 43, makes toys using wire and soda bottle tops, cans and other trash.

“I have been doing this job for 20 years and my family survives through this work,” he says.

Simba believes this year’s HIFA had fewer participating artists than in 2015 because of Zimbabwe’s severe cash crisis. But he sees its future as “bright if the support given by all stakeholders this year is anything to go by.”

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Lloyd Bisiwasi makes toys out of recycled cans at the Harare International Festival of the Arts on May 3. The festival gives artists a chance to showcase their art.

Linda Mujuru, GPJ Zimbabwe


Linda Mujuru, GPJ, and Tatenda Kanengoni, GPJ, translated some interviews from Shona.