(AA) – Since its inception in 1999, the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) has been widely regarded as an event for the elite.
Audiences were mainly white and rich, as these were seen as the communities that appreciated art.
With time, however, the HIFA grew in scope, and, ten years later, in 2009, 60 children from poor communities were bused in to the main festival arena in the Harare Gardens.
At the time, the festival had provided transport and food for the children during their stay in the city.
This year’s HIFA will go even further. This time around, artists from different countries will meet orphans and underprivileged children in various children’s homes in Harare.
On Thursday, a drama troupe called ASSITEJ – which includes members from South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Sweden and Zimbabwe – took time to meet orphans at Harare’s Matthew Rusike Children’s Home.
An ensemble of 30 artists played drums, sang and danced with the children before distributing soft drinks, sweets and fruit.
“What you have done today for these kids is out of this world,” Reverend Margret Mawire, who runs the home, said, while accepting donations.
“Just by being here playing with the kids will lift their spirits,” he said.
Reverend Mawire said the center, located in Harare’s Epworth periphery, is home to 143 children, whose ages range from 18 months to 18 years.
It relies on donations from well-wishers and its own projects, which include a poultry market and garden.
A Swedish playwright who visited the home said he hoped at least one child would develop an interest in art.
“I did not know there could be such underprivileged children like the ones here,” Erik Norberg told The Anadolu Agency.
“I hope our presence here will encourage at least one of them to become an artist,” he said.
Alderman Ralph Chimanikire, president of the ASSITEJ group, thanked HIFA for organizing the community-outreach initiative.
“I am grateful for what HIFA has done as a way of dispelling the notion that it’s only a festival for the rich,” he told AA.
Garikai Makokoro, HIFA’s outreach coordinator, said they hoped to continue running such programs.
“These communities have talent,” Makokoro told AA.
Harare on Tuesday was set alight by the opening of the HIFA, which was attended by a galaxy of international artists.
First launched in 1999 by Manuel Bagoro, HIFA’s founder and artistic director, the event is now considered one of Africa’s premier international art festivals.
A showcase for dance, fashion, poetry, comedy, music, the visual arts and sculpture, the HIFA – held every year in late April or early May – now draws award-winning artists from across the globe.