Dzimbahwe Arts Festival in full swing

I KNEW the Hellenic Cultural Centre was due to re-open because@ I’d bumped into chef-ette designate, Irene Verghis, the only blonde Greek I have ever met, at Vali’s Bakery. She told me the move was afoot.


(Incidentally, I have known several Greek blonds, but no other blonde Greeks! American readers may not spot the difference.)

Irene Verghis is a consummate caterer. Readers may remember her most recently from Trax at Newlands, where she was briefly a business partner. Prior to that, she ran the phenomenally successful Fournos coffee shop, serving possibly the best breakfast in Harare, opposite Holiday Inn. (It’s now Symphony, also recently re-opened: see Eating Out in Sunday’s Standard.)
Soon after we decided definitely to have a go at re-launching the madcap Greendale Good Food & Wine Appreciation Society, put into temporary mothballs late last year at the height of food shortages and cash crises, I met a long time keen member who, when asked for suggestions as to possible venues, insisted we return to an Hellenics whose re-opening had escaped me. It was a favourite spot of ours under two previous management teams.
So return we did….and it was a fun-filled rousing success, attracting 16 members to the re-launch in early July.
Hellenics, at Eastlea, between Henry Chapman Golf club and what was the former Callies (Caledonians’) Club (now Motor Action), looked more attractive than I have ever seen it, scrubbed, re-painted and polished. Tables and chairs are more spaciously laid out; the linen was crisp, cutlery, crockery and glassware gleamed. Shining windows are gorgeously and ornately draped. Lighting has been much improved.
It really is a splendid place for a classy function: cocktail dos, company launches, re-brandings etc and is hugely popular for wedding receptions, engagement parties and the like. I even once attended a fabulous divorce party there!
The bar has had a major refurb and was stocked much more fully than some of our highly starred hotels, with local and many imported lines at reasonable club prices.
To avoid change problem, “tabs” were opened and pre-prandial chilled articles of a moderately intoxicating nature were jotted down, pending post-prandial totting up and individual rounding-up or rounding down exercises.
I am not the only one pretty annoyed with one of my other favourite clubs, which has increased, without apparent justification, drinks prices by 50% recently. I hope what is obviously members’ major consumer resistance will force a change of heart on the part of the committee.
Back to Hellenics, and starters. At my suggestion, lots of bread, Melba toast and butter and “sufficient” Greek dips: tamara (normally $5), dzadziki and skordalia ($4 each) and a deep Greek salad bowl ($6) were provided for four covers, with a selection of fried feta, pork and chicken mini-kebabs, chicken and prawn rissoles, chicken, beef and vegetarian samoosas. The latter were very welcome by three Hindu members.
There were four of these deliveries to cater for 16 pax.
Then members ordered whatever they most fancied from a smallish but workmanlike menu as main courses.
In my case that was two generous fillets of white, flaky deep-fried hake in a crispy batter with sauce tartare and a mountain of good chips. The one disappointment at my end of the table was that cooked vegetables: broccoli and carrots were served, plated with mains, just tepid, rapidly further cooling unacceptably. This was no train smash, though, as there was still lots of Greek salad left: an option which, candidly, I preferred.
Fish, chips and all the trimmings were $8, as were chicken Kiev (very rich and creamy), which journalist Angus Shaw, on my right, thoroughly enjoyed, half piri-piri chicken (probably the most popular choice), chicken schnitzel, pork chops or pork or chicken kebabs. Big T-bones or rump steaks were $10.
No one wanted pudding, so I never discovered what was offered in that line that Friday, nor at what price.
However, when I popped back to Hellenics on another matter a week later, only to find Irene had gone to Greece to see her mom for three weeks, her Portuguese business and life partner “Jinx” outlined the club’s reintroduced and always popular in the past Sunday buffet.
If you are going to try it, arrive hungry, preferably breakfast-less!: Greek dips, soup, choice of three or four “English” style roast meat dishes with all traditional accompaniments; Greek mains; sweets such as the South African favourite Malva pudding, rice pud, ice-cream and chocolate sauce and tea or coffee costs $15 and you can help yourself as frequently as you like.
Verily the eat-as-much-as-you-like/can, serve yourself, buffet is beloved by Zimbo diners-out, but can be a sight not for the faint hearted nor over-fastidious!
Confusingly, Hellenic’s business cardIN its second year running and as an initiative to give arts associations, arts groups and others involved in the arts a platform to showcase their activities, the Dzimbahwe Arts Festival 2009 is in full swing having started yesterday and running until July 25.
The festival, whose theme is “Celebrating Culture in Unity”, is a collaborative effort between Great Zimbabwe University (GZU), Masvingo Arts Assembly and the National Arts Council funded by the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust. It is being held in Masvingo at the Great Zimbabwe University, an institution recognised for its thrust towards the development of the arts in Zimbabwe.
Renowned actor and festival consultant Walter Mparutsa commended GZU for the strides they have made in promoting cultural development.
“Since Great Zimbabwe is situated in Masvingo with all its great history and influences to modern day Zimbabwe, it must be made into the hub of cultural development and expression,” he said.  
According to the festival concept paper the festival is intended to “galvanise the province and its visitors into celebrating culture’s contribution to the development and preservation of our cultural heritage.”
The festival is multi-disciplinary, encapsulating the visual, performing, literary and culinary arts. This year’s edition will also add an academic forum which is a forerunner to the international conference on heritage reclamation and promotion to be held during the third edition of the festival next year.
In the visual arts stone, wooden and metal sculptures will be displayed along with printed fabric, textiles, models and pottery amongst other artefacts.
Performing arts will involve music with groups such as the Harare based Gwarimba, Africa Destiny, Nsunkuzonke Stars and Masvingo-based Uncle Jahunda among a host of other performers.
Poetry, dance and theatre will also be showcased with the festival hosting a community theatre gala which will feature performances by groups from the university, surrounding schools and the community such as Dzimbahwe Poets, GZU Drama Group and Bulawayo-based Schools Playwrights and Actors Academy.
In the literal arts the festival showcases a wide collection of Shona, Ndebele, Venda and Shangani literary works from both upcoming and celebrated authors.
The festival will also stage an exhibition featuring traditional foods, dietary regimes and traditional herbal remedies being used to mitigate the effects of HIV and Aids. –– Staff Writer.