A festival is by definition a special occasion of feasting or celebration, normally with a religious connotation. Festivals have origins in antiquity and in the past, have also been associtated with seasons and harvest time. In modern times, festivals have become opportunities for communities to inculcate cultural values, celebration of togetherness and fun, celebration of art and its documentation, the marking of significant historical events, highlight mythologies, and elevation of faith, among a few others. Of course, it is good and vital for festivals to also make money amid the fanfare. In fact, the last point is so critical. I asked Raisedon Baya (RB) of Intwasa Arts Festival about it. Shoko Festival run by Samm Monro, the self-styled Comrade Fatso, is breathing down Intwasa’s neck for second position. It appears better funded. But is it a case of just funding that “makes” or “breaks” festivals? The just-ended Intwasa Arts Festival ran concurrently with the Sanganai/Hlanganani Tourism Expo. The critics have called for leadership renewal and slated the festival’s organisers for the programming. IndependentXtra’s Admire Kudita (AK) interviewed the Intwasa director to discuss issues the festival is facing.
AK: You have heard a lot of feedback on Intwasa. What in your view are the standout points that have been highlighted as regards the festival going forward?
RB: We haven’t done our own post-mortem.
AK: What have you heard from the public about how the festival can be taken forward?
RB: Heard from where?
AK: Nkululeko Nkala (public relations officer for Intwasa) was on social media interacting with members of the public.
RB: That’s why I said we haven’t done our post-mortem.
AK: Intwasa means spring festival, what are the new acts that have come through the festival this year and previous two years?
RB: The festival does not create acts. It curates what’s available. Every year we have new acts, names of groups might not change, but presentations are always different.
AK: What is the way forward for the festival?
RB: As always, we will take what works for us, what fits in our objectives and mandate. Ideas and opinions will always be there, more so now that there is social media.
AK: What’s your mandate and objectives? And how do you feel about the ZTA partnership?
RB: They are there on the website. ZTA partnership was critical to us having the Main Stage. They also helped with clearing of artists. They also helped with office space. We just need to grow the partnership.
AK: What do you say to fears that you are being swallowed?
RB: ZTA has no intention to swallow us. We believe they genuinely want to help the festival. The good thing is that they are not just talk. They did most of what they promised.
AK: Let’s talk about city council partnership.
RB: (The) City of Bulawayo has been receptive towards Intwasa for years now. The relationship can get better. Instead of just giving venue for the Bayethe concert, we are hoping in future they will support acts too.
AK: Support how?
RB: Financial. The biggest challenge with festival is financial.
AK: Some sections of the media criticised the festival this year, what is your response to criticism?
RB: They are entitled to their opinions. For that’s what it was. Some journalists wrote their analysis of the whole festival on day one. Others wrote theirs without even attending the festival. Most never bothered to hear our side. But that’s journalism in Zimbabwe, opinion pieces passing for factual pieces.
AK: Can you give readers and stakeholders an indication of your challenges, successes and message?
RB: Not before the post-mortem.
AK: When will the post-mortem be released and mind you, the term ironically refers to a procedure performed on something that has died. Couldn’t the term review have suited you better?
RB: Meant review.
AK: Would you consider stepping down as festival director to pave way for people with “fresh ideas”, as suggested by some members of the public?
RB: You are a journalist. You seem to have an article in your mind already. Write it.
AK: No. What I am doing is regurgitate questions I have seen on social media. They are thinking it, not me.
RB: He he he. My response ends here.
It is clear to fair minded folk that within the context of the ailing economy, the creative sector is perhaps the most bedevilled by lack of funding. Festivals are no less cash-strapped. Ultimately, the leadership at Intwasa need not step down, but merely embrace innovative ideas. The hugely successful Bulwayo Arts Awards raised expectations and succeeded in operating on a virtually non-existent budget.