Chimanimani is home to Zimbabwe’s second highest mountain range. It is also home to one of Zimbabwe’s premier festivals, the Chimanimani Arts Festival, held in August every year. Usually a three-day affair, this year the festival will run for just two days from the 9 – 10 August (this weekend!), delivering what is set to be 48 hours of unforgettable arts, culture and fun!
If you’ve never been to Chimanimani, it is an easily made trip from Harare and the festival is a perfect excuse to go and check out one of Zimbabwe’s most beautiful mountain ranges. Like HIFA, the Chimanimani Arts Festival sits high on the Zimbabwean arts calendar. It is unique in that it is one of the few festivals that is free and takes place in a rural village setting with acts coming from far and wide to perform.
The Chimanimani Arts Festival started in 1998 and since then has built a formidable reputation. All day and all night, vibrant live music, traditional drumming, singing and dancing flood the Village Green. The festival is attended by large crowds from Chimanimani itself, neighbouring Mutare, Bulawayo and of course Harare. What really makes this festival worthwhile is the harmonious atmosphere as the community comes together in the spirit of art. The community itself plays a part, with the police donating their services and the council donating the use of the Village Green.
The main stage of the festival is on the Village Green in the shadow of the mountains. There is a craft site where local people come and exhibit among stalls which sell prepared food. A second venue is at the Chimanimani Arts Festival Trust building where there are theatre performances and art exhibitions. The Blue Moon, one of the village pubs, hosts yet another stage. Artists who have performed in the past include Chiwoniso Maraire, Oliver Mtukudzi, Thomas Mapfumo, Suluman Chimbetu, Spanish band Dema Chena, Chikwata.263, Ba Shupi, Tehn Diamond and Alick Macheso. This year’s festival goers can look forward to Alexio Kawara, Sniper Storm, Kessia Magosha, Sister Flame, Selmore Mtukudzi, The Luggards, Gwarimba, Tsvete, Club Shanga, Savannah Afros and more.
The festival is free for everyone and begins at 10am each day until the early hours of the following morning. The festival opens with a traditional chief’s blessing ceremony followed by people coming to showcase their culture through dance and song from surrounding areas. This communal festival celebrates all local cultures, in particular the marginalised Ndau.
If you are thinking of heading to the Chimanimani Arts Festival, here are a few things to bear in mind:
Chimanimani is 435km away from Harare, or an approximately 6 hour drive by car. There is also public transport available through buses (Pioneer or ZUPCO) and kombis.
The Frog and Fern: offering self-contained cottages is only a 10 minute drive from the festival site. Contact: 026 2294
Heaven Lodge: currently being refurbished. Ideal for camping and dormitory stays – very close to the festival site. Contact: 026 2701, 0775 904 679
The Farm House: a self-catering lodge, good for backpackers and families. Contact: 0772 101 283.
Chimanimani Hotel: 1 star hotel accommodation, in old-style, classic rooms. Contact 026 2511 or 026 2513.
Accommodation is also available with members of the local community through the Chimanimani Festival office. Contact Tendai Tombo: Telephone 026 2545 or 0772 603 499.
Food is available at the festival site where vendors sell prepared food from stalls called kalandos. There is also the Msasa Café, the M and C Bar and the Chimanimani Hotel which are good options for nourishing food.
It is much colder in Chimanimani than Harare and it is particularly cold at this time of year. Dress warmly!
Chimanimani is a beautiful mountain town and there are plenty of things to do there besides the festival. Visit Bridal Veil Falls only a 5km walk from the festival site or take a hike in the Chimanimani National Park. Outward Bound has a facility for those who like to push their bodies to the limit. There is also an Eland Sanctuary in the hills above the village and a spectacular view of the mountain and valley below at Skyline Junction.
For more information visit www.chimanimani.com.