The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
THIS year’s edition of the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo will aim to bring smiles to the faces of pandemic weary arts lovers in the City of Kings, with organisers now optimistic about the prospects of a successful and relatively “normal” festival after the Government relaxed Covid-19 regulations last week.
This year’s edition of the festival, the 15th, is set for 21-25 September.
In an interview, festival director Raisedon Baya said organisers were buoyant about the prospects of this year’s extravaganza, which they felt would provide an opportunity for people to enjoy life again after a year filled with grief and hardship.
The festival comes after a particularly tough winter in Zimbabwe, which saw hundreds of people lose their lives to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With Covid-19 and the festival we have realised that we have to celebrate life. A lot of people have been at home and a lot of people have been afraid. A lot of people have been doing all manner of things to stay afloat and alive. For that one week, we want to encourage people to come out, be themselves and relax, something that they haven’t done in a long time,” he said.
Last week, the Government announced that a range of cultural and leisure activities could now resume for the fully vaccinated, with venues given the greenlight to start operating including cinemas, theatres, art galleries, gymnasiums, health spas and fitness centres.
While cinemas and theatres can reopen, all staff on duty must be vaccinated, all those attending must be fully vaccinated and social distancing must still be observed so only half the seating capacity can be used. Galleries can reopen, with vaccinated staff and fully vaccinated clients.
Baya said the latest regulations were the boost that the festival needed.
“I think we are excited that Covid-19 regulations keep getting relaxed. From the last announcement, it certainly says that we will be able to, at least, host a few live events which is what we were crying for. This is because we believe that a festival can not just be virtual because there are things that have to be practical, for example, certain workshops.
“With things like soccer, you know it has to happen physically and there are things in the arts that we feel should also happen like that. Either people should come and watch in terms of performance or people should come and interact in terms of skills sharing, rather than watching something virtually, so we are excited about that,” he said.
Baya said with plans subject to change at any time due to Covid-19 regulations, the organisers had learnt to be flexible over the last two editions of the festival.
“We are now getting to learn that in terms of planning, you just don’t do it long term and this is due to the ever-changing Covid-19 regulations. You have to learn to adapt and work knowing that tomorrow might change. We are happy that they have opened but imagine if cases go up. This might mean that they might close again and so we are working with that in mind.
“It is unlike in previous years where we would plan in January and say, this is what we are working on and agree to it in January before looking for resources and partners. We knew things were cast in stone and would not change.
Nowadays we have learnt to be very flexible. As we plan for virtual and physical performances, we now know that nothing is cast in stone anymore,” he said.
From this point forward, Baya said, the organisers would keep a keen ear on the latest trends regarding Covid-19, lest their plans be disrupted once again.
“We are going to be playing it by the ear but we are excited that we are going to have a number of physical shows. At the moment maybe our worry is that the last regulations that were announced are silent on the curfew. So, we are waiting, praying and hoping that within the next week or so that will be dealt with so that we at least have shows up until the evening and people are able to go home.
It’s important that we keep sight of the weekly Cabinet briefings because they direct us in terms of how we have to run the festival,” he said.