Intwasa tries to bloom as donor fatigue sets in
ORGANISERS of the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo have had to make-do with the little that they have to make sure that the city’s biggest arts extravaganza takes place, with indications that donors that have pulled out from sponsoring the arts over the last few years are unlikely to make a hasty return.
The last few years have been lean for the country’s arts festivals with donors, the financial pillar of most of the country’s major arts events, seemingly tightening their belts.
While the country’s dire economic conditions have contributed to the pull back by donors, donor fatigue has also been cited as the reason for the sudden austerity from organisations that were cash cows in the past.
The hardest hit has perhaps been the country’s major arts festivals,
Intwasa and Hifa, with the founder of the latter
Manue l B a g g o r o
highlighting the quandary that they faced.
“Many nonprofi arts presenters struggle in different ways, whether they are in Zimbabwe or elsewhere. As you rightly say, relying on a single or small group of donors is problematic, as many organisations in Zimbabwe, including Hifa, have felt with the withdrawal of major arts/ culture donor agencies and embassies over the last few years,” he told our sister paper the Sunday Mail.
Intwasa, the festival that heralds spring in the City of Kings, now has to bloom despite the financial problems that bedevil all previously donor-reliant arts events in the country.
This year’s festival, which takes place between 25 and 29 September, is happening under the shadow of the changing relationship between the donor community and the arts.
“The donors have been saying that we’ve been putting resources into the same things for years and years and we’re not seeing results. Organisations like Hivos have scaled back and you look at an institution like Culture Fund which used to be a big organisation but now also needs help in financing its programmes,” said Raisedon Baya, the festival director who has stood the taste of time in the industry and is among the heroes of the arts sector, though largely uncelebrated.
Baya, born and bred in Bulawayo, is a family man, a newspaper columnist, an award winning playwright and director whose works have toured internationally with Amakhosi Theatre, Rooftops Promotions, and Siyaya Arts. Some of his popular works include Witnesses and Victims, Rags and Garbage, Madmen and Fools and the banned Super Patriots and Morons and The Crocodile of Zambezi. For The Crocodile of Zambezi he received, with Christopher Mlalazi, a Novib — Pen International Freedom of Expression Award. His collection of plays Tomorrow’s People was published in 2009. He is the Director of the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo.
According to Baya, when they began preparations for this year’s festival, which will see 25 events across various arts disciplines, they had been assured by donors that their plight would improve after this country’s watershed harmonised elections.
“When we started running around earlier in the year they were saying that they’re waiting for elections. However, there isn’t much indication of change since the elections but perhaps maybe it’s too early to assess if there’s any change. Maybe Intwasa came just too early after the elections,” he said.
Baya added that the absence of donor support might prove to be a blessing in disguise for artistes.
“We’re trying to find models that go beyond donor support. One thing that you need to know about donor funding is that it always comes with strings attached. Sometimes we would like to do art for art’s sake.
“You would like to bring a love story to the stage but it’s highly unlikely that you’d get donor funding for it. Sometimes we would love to make productions that have nothing to do with the situation on the ground,” he said.
Intwasa had earlier indicated that they were looking for more
buy-in from artistes, who they expected to contribute meaningfully to the growth of the festival.
This was still a work in progress, he said.
“A festival is like the Trade Fair. We’re basically asking artistes to come and exhibit their craft. At the Trade Fair exhibitors pay to exhibit and not the other way round. So we’ve been trying to convince artistes of this vision that we have. We would love everyone to meet and contribute on how to keep the festival alive because ideas and the buy-in of everyone is how it stays alive,” Baya said.
Despite the many obstacles they faced on the road to this year’s fete, Baya said some local arts groups and individuals have embraced the new Intwasa vision.
Nhimbe Trust, Skyz Metro, Savannah Trust, OSISA and CITE are some who have come to the party.
“Some have heeded the call. You have people like Savannah Trust, who have travelled the world, yet offered us their cast. You have others like Umkhathi who have over the last few years have basically also offered themselves to Intwasa.
Then you have young artistes like Asaph that have come to us and asked how they can help. They’re saying they have their own networks and all they need is to be told what to do then they can go and market the event,” he said.