Partying for a cause

LONDON - For many diasporans living in London, Zimfest has become as synonymous with the British summer as strawberries and cream at the Wimbledon tennis tournament and train saunas accompanying the month long heatwave. From as early as April, Zimbabweans meeting up in pubs, at protests an

d on the tube will be asking that all important question: “Hey, do you know when Zimfest is this year?”
WEZIMBABWE organisers have promised veteran party goers that this year’s festival will be bigger and better than ever before. The date has been announced, the bands lined up and people are looking forward to drinking castle lager, meeting up with long lost friends and stocking up on cream soda, niknaks and sadza. However, as we gear up for a fun day of nostalgia and reminiscing it is important to remember that Zimfest is about so much more than just munching on boerwors rolls and koeksisters.
In 2001 as the situation in Zimbabwe deteriorated, a group of young Zimbabwean immigrants met in London to discuss raising money for charitable causes back home. Out of these meetings WEZIMBABWE and the concept of Zimfest were born; with so many of us flooding into the UK why not help people by throwing an annual party? To date over £80 000 has been distributed to charity in Zimbabwe: from education projects for children in Harare to orphanage and feeding projects in Matabeleland and Manicaland. Philip Chikwiramakomo, the Zimfest Project Manager, says that it is not just about raising money but also a chance to “showcase and celebrate all that is good about Zimbabwe.”
He says that this includes getting established artists such as Mann Friday, Netsayi and Henry Olonga to perform as well as giving opportunities to “unheralded artists” such as Bush Guru and Thabani. “We will also be having a dance and music workshop tent where people will be able, not only to listen to some music from the main stage, but there will also be an opportunity to play and learn a few tricks on Zimbabwean instruments,” he said.
Mann Friday, the only Zimbabwean rock group in London, has been playing at the festival since it began. “Zimfest is a great day out for us,” says band member Ryan Koriya. “It gives us a chance to chill with our friends and play to the home crowd as well as being one of our bigger audiences.”
Chikwiramakomo feels that one of the most important aspects of Zimfest, is that it brings together Zimbabweans in the UK from all walks of life, enabling us to build networks. “Our organisation’s aims are to build a sense of community and togetherness hoping it will translate into dignity, unity and respect for the Zimbabwean people,” he said.
Over the past five years, thousands of our fellow Zimbabweans have been subject to state sanctioned torture and harassment, hundreds of thousands have been made homeless by Operation Murambatsvina and with the economy in decline and people unable to access food and basic healthcare, an unprecedented number of children have been orphaned through the scourge of AIDS.
In a recent inspirational talk to Zimbabweans in the UK, funded by WEZIMBABWE, Debbie Jeans urged diasporans not to forget their “Zimbabwean DNA”. Zimfest has become a day where we can meet up to celebrate where we come from, as well as remembering and helping those we have left behind.

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