Youth Zone a great success

BY LEONORA WOOD
Given its sheer brilliance, the unusual thing about HIFA is that few people in Britain have heard of this unique arts event. So though visiting any new country is always full of intrigue, I came to Zimbabwe with little idea of what to expect from this country and its international

art festival.
For a few weeks before the Harare Gardens gates opened on HIFA 2006’s arts delights, I rolled up my sleeves and got down to helping to set up and run the HIFA Youth Zone is a tiring job but fun, starting with painting the bus and setting up the venues, and then during the week itself, always on the go dealing with one hiccup or another…feeding 50 Outreach kids or finding a workshop facilitator who has disappeared five minutes before he is due on.
Once the HIFA week was underway though, the happy faces on the kids (young and old, black and white) is recompense enough for any hard work. Coming from rainy England, where the weather is bleak and the faces bleaker, the atmosphere throughout the week was consistently brilliant, the HIFA workers and visitors always so friendly and keen to chat.
As well as the many varied dance, drama and art workshops, an important aspect of the Youth Zone are the performances by schools and outreach projects on the MusicMate bus. Some of the school shows are really entertaining; the best thing about HIFA’s Schools Amigos programme being that schools enrolled in the scheme get the chance to perform any work of their choice to an eager audience.
Shows staged in the Youth Zone by Outreach projects were some of the best I saw all week; the kids of Streets Ahead and the DTZ Outreach dance show in particular. The crowds were wild and I left feeling I had perhaps been watching some of Zimbabwe’s dance stars of the future.
As a newcomer to both Zimbabwe and HIFA, I feel I have had so many new experiences and am able to take the memory of all that I have seen back home with me. On return to Britain, I will do all I can to spread the HIFA word and explain to people that while the economical and social problems in this country are very real, there is so much more to Zimbabwe than the negative media reports our country consistently receives.
Such is the calibre of the events and management team, that HIFA is a truly inspiring event not only for Zimbabweans but for artists and art lovers the world over. Bring on 2007 – I will be booking my flight back here soon!

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