Bagorro rues HIFA’s missed opportunity

The Harare International Festival of the Arts offers local artists a unique opportunity to work with international artists, and government’s denial of an entry permit to South African group Freshlyground for this year’s festival is a missed opportunity.

Manuel Bagorro with South African poet Kgafela oa Magogodi and Zimbabwean poet Chirikure Chirikure.
Manuel Bagorro with South African poet Kgafela oa Magogodi and Zimbabwean poet Chirikure Chirikure.

The festival’s creative director Manuel Bagorro was clearly disappointed by the turn of events that led to the popular group failing to to perform on the last day of the show.

“HIFA is an opportunity. It’s a festival, it’s a celebration of communal collaboration. It’s an opportunity for Zimbabwean artists, regional artists, Pan African artists and international artists to come together and do something amazing,” Bagorro told The Zimbabwean.

He said the whole debacle involving Freshlyground was a great sadness for Zimbabwe, for HIFA and for everyone involved. “The fact that this wonderful group of musicians, who have enormous respect, admiration and affection for the people and the nation of Zimbabwe, was turned away at the airport seems to me a missed opportunity on a night when thousands of people poured into the centre of the capital city,” he said.

While a later statement from HIFA said no reasons were proffered for the groups’ refused entry Bagorro hinted that a political decision had been made. “To turn them away and say well we don’t want to present this show because of the potential of controversy seems to be a little bit uncolourful,” he said.

The group has recorded a song which portrays President Robert Mugabe as a chicken afraid to relinquish power. In its statement HIFA said it chose Freshlyground on the basis of their artistic credentials and their accomplishments. “Other government ministries and departments are also surprised at the denial of entry,” HIFA said, adding that it would engage the relevant departments so as to bring Freshlyground into the country for a show shortly.

Bagorro described this year’s festival as the busiest he had ever experienced.

“HIFA is something that offers everyone a chance to transform their careers, to transform trajectories on the creative side, to look at life and the Zimbabwean experience in a new way,” he said.

Arts and crafts at HIFA
Arts and crafts at HIFA

The festival offers artists opportunities to perform abroad and to be seen in a different way by local audiences. “That’s really important for an artist struggling to find an audience. They can look at HIFA and say I am going to bring a show that stretches people’s imagination about what theatre or music or dance or visual art is,” Bagorro said.

“This is an important event that people care about and they want it to succeed and with that energy behind it I think anything is possible,” he added.

Post published in: Arts

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