The Xtra year that was

Itai Mushekwe

THIS year saw the entertainment calendar filled with explosive thrills as well as its fair share of controversy cutting across all art genres.



l, Helvetica, sans-serif”>It has also been a year in which despite the economy’s continued recession, major artistic and cultural events managed to take root on the back of minuscule budgets.


First to ignite the entertainment terrain in May was the popular Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa) held under the theme “What About You?” Hifa is considered one of the most organised and prestigious arts festivals in the region.


Hifa witnessed an array of artists from across the globe converging on the capital to do what they know best. There were splendid dance performances and theatre feasts presented by performers from countries such as Norway, Germany, Sweden, France, and India to mention but a few. The guest star at this year’s edition of the arts extravaganza was talented guitarist Habib Koite from Mali presented by the Embassy of France and Alliance Francaise.


The Zimbabwe International Book Fair was to follow in June. However, the book showcase failed to live up to expectations as it was poorly attended, becoming an example of how best not to organise an event.


Still on the literary arena, veteran journalist, Chris Gande, now gated in exile in the US, delayed sending his book about the plight of a Bulawayo family evicted from their farm to the book fair, therefore the publication never saw the light of day as it arrived in the country long after the fair had closed.


Zimbabwe’s premiere film festival, the Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF) came with a bang in August resuscitating the drying entertainment arena which had prevailed in July. Under the catchy theme “Create, Elevate and Innovate”, the ten-day film fiesta unveiled close to 90 films that included feature films, documentaries and short films screened at nine different venues that included Harare and Bulawayo. The festival also offered filmmaker workshops, seminars and master classes and outreach activities.

ZIFF, which was in its eighth year, held a Zimbabwe Calabash to celebrate local film excellence during the past 25 years. It also presented the country with its latest feature film, Tanyaradzwa, and a sheaf of short films that included Nyaminyami, Tamara’s Diary, Cousin Brother and this year’s winner Kukura Kuremerwa.


Renowned Welsh filmmaker, Karl Francis, who was conducting master classes in film during the festival also called upon government to implement a film policy so as to advance the sector which he said has immense potential if funded well.


Still on film, government brewed a shocker by alleging that a Hollywood political satire, The Interpreter, starring academy award winner Nicole Kidman was an American propaganda effort to further vilify and ostracise Harare through the big screen. Visiting American filmmaker, Charles Burnett, who jetted in from Namibia where he was shooting a feature film on that country’s president, titled Nujoma dismissed the claim as ill-founded and baseless.


Silvia Broome (Kidman) plays the role of an African-born United Nations interpreter who overhears a death threat against an African head of state scheduled to address the UN’s General Assembly. Realising she’s become a target of the assassins as well, Silvia is desperate to thwart the plot. Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) is a federal agent charged with protecting the interpreter, who nonetheless suspects she may not be telling the whole truth. In the right hallway, at the right time, all it takes is a whisper to tip the balance of power.


Government was exasperated by the film’s plot which centres on an imaginary African country called Matobo whose octogenarian leader has been at the helm of the political organogram for over two decades and is due to make a last ditch appearance at the United Nations General Assembly in a bid to exonerate himself for the crimes he committed against humanity.


On the musical front, more than three internationally acclaimed artists visited the country each giving a memorable show. First was Russian duo, award winning soprano Ella Shargorodskaya and her pianist, Natalya Volkova who gave a week-long concert tour at venues in Harare, Mutare and Bulawayo.


Australian award winning pianist, Daniel de Borah was to follow, giving performances in Harare and the City of Kings. Wrapping it up was talented Serbian harpist, Jovan Illic, who partnered local act, Luba Blue Band, to dish out a five-star performance.


Chimurenga guru, Thomas Mapfumo, made a radio comeback after suffering five years of airplay starvation. Mapfumo also made an astonishing return at the Gramma record stable where his Singles Collection containing all his hit songs, some recorded as early as 1978, became a bluechip.


Jazz superstars, Tanga Wekwa Sando, alongside Hear the Music’s Celebration Choir, were nominated for the prestigious Kora Musical Awards. The former was nominated in the Best Group from Southern Africa category, in which he failed to win any silverware owing to the awards bungling which saw him being entered in the wrong category instead of the Best Male Artist from Southern Africa. The latter also failed to bring glory from Durban, although they were tipped as favourites losing to a Kenyan gospel group.


Power FM — the so called teenage radio station — breathed a sigh of relief following the introduction of international music to spice up its disabled programming which was characterised by repetitions of the same albums by local artists. Some of the station’s top DJ’s were reportedly engaged in the illegal burning of music from the Internet as the new policy caught them unawares on the back of a music library that had since gathered dust on its foreign music shelves as a result of former minister, Jonathan Moyo, who propagated the 100% local content policy in a bid to screen the Zimbabwean audience from international variety.


On television, mediocrity and outdated programming continued at the sole broadcaster’s stable. ZTV recently hiked television licence fees to $600 000 (including radio) in a bid to come to grips with modern programming. Added to the embattled station’s woes was a massive audience migration to satellite television and movie houses.


A positive score was registered in the theatre sector. Rooftop Promotions managed to stage its plays in Sweden while moving on to challenge the Censorship Act largely seen as punitive and restrictive thus being detrimental to the sector’s growth. A Malawian theatre outfit, Nanzikambe, which was on tour of the country a few months ago, gave a thumbs up to local actors describing Zimbabwe theatre as rich.


On the stone sculpture genre, an enlightening book on Zimbabwean sculpture origins, Zimbabwe Stone Sculpture: A Retrospective 1957-2004, was published in September. The book discusses some of the challenges faced by the sector.


Not to be outshone in the league of controversy was the Miss Zimbabwe Trust which decided to go to bed with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) in what appears to be an ambush takeover of the national beauty event as a marketing tool for ZTA which has the burning responsibility of image-making Zimbabwe.


Last week the Miss Zimbabwe Trust was in the news for failing to send Zimbabwe’s representative to the Miss World pageant held in China as the problems associated with transforming Miss Zimbabwe now known as Miss Zimbabwe Tourism begin to bite.

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