Harare International Festival of the Arts
By Lucy Tingay
HIFA is an annual Harare arts festival that showcases local and international artists. A unique and much-loved winter arts event, it has been hailed all over the world as a festival that has something to offer everyone. Past editions have featured local artists alongside big-name international acts such as Salif Keita, Femi Kuti, Steve Dyer, the late Oliver Mtukudzi, Winky D and Chiwoniso Maraire.
Running for almost 20 years, HIFA had firmly established itself in the cultural calendar of Harare. However, the continuous economic and political upheaval of Zimbabwe has put a huge financial strain on the festival and in 2019 HIFA was unable to put on and celebrate its 20th-anniversary show. In 2020 and 2021, Covid-19 devastated the global arts and culture sector forcing the organizers to postpone yet again.
We spoke to Executive Director Maria Wilson to find out what the future holds for fans of the popular festival. “I want us to bring HIFA back. We are not over, but we are on life support. HIFA is not financially stable” said Wilson. Still, Wilson remains passionate about Harare’s world-renowned festival which is an important cultural asset and income generator for the city. In addition to employing hundreds of people and providing a stage for over a thousand artists, it is an important cultural event that brings Harare residents together. Unable to confirm when HIFA will return, Wilson added that the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 may yet still affect a proposed 2022 anniversary show.