Since Harare is as culturally active as a modern day dodo, it’s no surprise that HIFA, the Harare International Festival of Arts, now in its fifth year, is a welcome relief. However mainly catering to the white population, partially because of the, for locals, steep prices and partially because the black population simply doesn’t appear to be really interested in arts and ‘culture’ as such, the festival’s activities can give quite a distorted view of what’s going on in Harare, on a normal weekend.
Some of the shows are staged at the 7 Arts cinema at Avondale, but most of the activities occur on or close to the festival grounds, on the edge of the inner city.
On Tuesday, we visited Jorge Pardo and the Francisco Molina Trio, a combination of jazz and flamenco. And it was spectacular. Most of the shows at HIFA only run for about an hour, which was by far the largest drawback for this outing. Nevertheless, the combination of Pardo’s guitar and Molina’s flute and saxophones was perfect. The music being so lively and colorful, everyone left with smiles from ear to ear. A pity, however, that we came to late for the free sangria that was handed out before the show, courtesy of the Spanish embassy, who sponsored this event.
On Wednesday, we watched Le Centre National de Danse Contemporaine. And thank god they did two sets. The first was nice, four dancers slowly dancing while being engulfed in light reflected off mirrors held by other dancers, until a black guy appeared to get a ten minute spastic fit on stage. I was reminded once again that, indeed, besides watching fit young nearly naked women jump around on stage, I’m not a big fan of modern dance. The second part was much better with a much larger group dancing semi-synchronous but highly orchestrated in colorful costumes to industrial dance music.
The second show we went to were the Cool Crooners featuring Prudence Katomeni. They are supposed to be ‘premier exponents of township jazz’, but to me it sounded more like blues with African rhythms. It was a great spectacle. The group has been playing together since the fifties, so they’re no longer the youngest kids on the block. Still they danced as if they thought they were still in their teens. Lots of fun and very good music. Prudence’s appearance was good to, her higher-pitched voice being a very good contrast with the gentlemen’s low baritones.
Our first show on Thursday was ‘My Favourite Things’ by Tangled Tribe, a Zimbabwean dancers collective. Although the premise wasn’t bad, the group explored the individual’s preferences as a defining property for an individual as part of a particular culture, they should have practiced quite a bit more.
The second show was fantastic. Also dance, this time ‘Mzansi’ by the South African collective Moving Into Dance. The show only lasted for 45 minutes and was so well choreographed, expressive, exciting and lively that everyone in the audience was annoyed it was over so quickly. It appeared they were doing something of a dancer’s history of South Africa.
Meanwhile, connectivity has almost ground to a halt. It has been impossible this week to check my email. Web surfing is only barely possible.