The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
THE Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo, the annual arts fete that announces the arrival of spring in the City of Kings, has always had a taste for art made by women.
Take, for example, the festival’s flagship event, Women, Words and Wine.
That showcase has become one of the must-attend events on the Intwasa calendar and year after year and edition after edition, it has been proven that poetry and music are as intoxicating as the generous amounts of wine served on the evening.
As impressive as that event is, it is just one of many on the Intwasa roaster and many are usually left asking for more when the wine barrels run dry and the poets and singers have nothing more to recite or sing.
This year there will not be any need to do so however, as the arts festivals has vowed to make women the face of the six-day arts extravaganza that begins on Tuesday in Bulawayo.
Besides the usual suspects like the Women, Words and Wine, Intwasa will for the first time see women constituting the majority of performers at the event.
“Over the past few years, we have been moving towards giving women are bigger share of the festival’s programme. I think this has been particularly so in the last couple of editions. This is intentional and maybe in the next few years you’re going to see a stand-alone platform for female artistes,” said festival director Raisedon Baya.
Baya said this year’s edition, which will host a Women’s Day on the sixth day of the festival, was also unique because of the more than 300 performers set to entertain arts lovers this year, over half would be women.
“Most of the artistes for this year’s event have been secured and all in all the festival will host over 300 artistes. It will cater for both young and old. Half of that number will be school students and the other half will be professional artistes.
For the first time in the festival’s history the majority of the performers will be female artistes,” he said.
Baya added that Intwasa shining the spotlight on women was not accidental, as they wanted to make the festival an inclusive platform that gave a voice to those members of the arts fraternity that might feel muted in other arts major events.
“I think the festival has been slowly focusing on inclusion as one of its core strategies. I say this because you’ll see that we have a lot of events that will either focus on children, women or the youth,” he said.
However, despite the festival’s progressive outlook, Baya said Intwasa was not an island and therefore was also affected by the tough economic times that had hit other arts events and festivals hard.
With major events like that the Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa), Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF) and Harare Fashion Week failing to take off, Baya said they had to keep their eyes on the ball lest they also fall by the wayside.
“Organising the festival has been hard because things are always changing. You wake up every day and have to find out how the exchange rates are because what you budgeted yesterday might not be enough today,” he said.
Five venues, the Bulawayo Theatre, the National Art Gallery, the City Hall Car Park, the Large City Hall and Hope Centre will host this year’s festivities. Despite the harsh economic environment, Intwasa has found a few partners that are willing to out their hand up and back one of the biggest events on the City of Kings’ arts calendar.
OSISA, the City of Bulawayo, Plan Zimbabwe, the US Embassy, Patsime, Nhimbe Trust and Theatre in the Park are some of the organisations that are taking the plunge with Intwasa in its 15th edition.
Despite such support, Baya bemoaned the lack of corporate backing.
“Some of our challenges so far include trying to run a big event with 40 activities when the prices of things are changing every day. It becomes a juggling exercise. This is an economy where funders are not interested in investing. Just look around, major festivals like HifA and ZIFF and others are failing to happen this year,” he said.
Baya picked Vagina Monologues, the Bayethe Youth Concert, Women, Words and Wine, the Intwasa Poetry Slam and 100 Girls/ 100 voices as the events to watch this year. He also gave a nod to the comedy shows, the Night of Big Comedy and Borderline Insanity as events that might steal the show at this year’s extravaganza.
The festival will kick off on Tuesday with two events, a workshop on Arts Reporting Reviewing and a 100 Girls/Voices Poetry event where girls will showcase and compete against each other. The day will end with the official opening show which has been themed “Africa Rituals”.
It will feature performances from a cast of artistes including Bolamba Arts and Ezimnyama Dance Ensemble at the Bulawayo Theatre.