The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) is Zimbabwe’s biggest arts festival. Every year at the end of this month, Harare residents drop what they’re doing to enjoy the best the city has to offer in arts entertainment from local and international artists. This year the festival runs from the 29 April to 4 May. As usual, it’s set to be jam-packed with all sorts of treats for the young and old alike. Running under the theme, Switch on the festival invites us all to switch on a light in the darkness and radiate our communal light around the world.
Some of you may be experiencing HIFA for the first time, while for others, being a part of HIFA is old hat. Something of an old hat herself Tawanda Mudzonga brings us her list of Dos and Don’ts to help you to maximize your HIFA experience and make sure you get value for money.
DO sign up to be an HIFAmigo. Although it feels like a high initial outlay, this ‘friends of HIFA’ membership programme is the best way of cutting costs. You’ll get a 20% discount on two tickets per show, entry to the HIFA grounds and to the Green Room plus first seating priority at every show you go to. There are two levels: HIFAmigo ($80) and Troubadour ($200). Being a Troubadour gives you free entrance to all main stage shows and entry to a designated seating area for main stage performances. Troubadours also have a separate entrance for all events – a major bonus if you don’t fancy waiting in a long queue. For the kids, being a Young Amigo ($35) will give you a discount to the Youth Zone shows, activities and workshops. All HIFAmigos receive a free programme and an invitation to the opening cocktail party on Monday 28 April and a chance to meet some of the artists. The deadline to apply for HIFAmigos is 5 April.
DO Buy your tickets early – you can get them in the Avondale shops parking lot or at the HIFA venue itself in the Harare Gardens. Popular shows often sell out early, so get in line fast!
DON’T let your cell phone out of your sight! In previous years, shows and performances (particularly main stage) have seen many an audience member arrive with their cell phone and leave without it. In the crowds that flock to the festival grounds, it is wise to be careful with your valuables at all times. Or leave them at home.
DO get your hands on a HIFA programme ($5). It lets you know what’s going on where, what time and for how long. HIFA has seven different sites where events, shows and performances take place. These include the main stage, global stage, Coke green, Global Quarter and Youth Zone on the main site in Harare Gardens, and 7 Arts and Reps Theatre off site. Free buses shuttle audiences between the main site to venues in Avondale and Belgravia.
DON’T arrive late for shows. Apart from being embarrassing and disruptive – you might end up sitting in rubbish seats far away from your friends! Or not being allowed in.
DO mingle on the green. Check the schedule and make a special effort. It’s budget friendly (i.e. free to holders of tickets to any other shows), there is lots on and this space has an incredible atmosphere! Eat sadza, drink Lion, and enjoy the cosmopolitan atmosphere.
DO mix up the kinds of shows you go to. So, you love classical music? Go to a rock show or a play. There is no better way of broadening your horizons than at live events.
DO bring a picnic blanket or some folding chairs especially for afternoon shows on the main stage. An annual favourite is the CABS Opera Gala on Wednesday night with some of the best opera stars from around the world lined up for some delightful singing under the stars.
DO Check out the international AND the local performers. Although you can see local performers all year round in Harare, they usually pull out all the stops for HIFA, often collaborating with international acts for one-of-a-kind unique performances. This year artists on show include comedian Daliso Chaponda, USA band Blended 328, local Afro-folk singer Netsayi & Black Pressure and the critically acclaimed theatre show My Father’s Hat.
Contact HIFA directly on 309999, online at www.hifa.co.zw or at the Wendy House on Natal Road in Belgravia.
Caption: Scene from the HIFA 2012 opening show ‘A Show of Spirit’. Photo credit: Macpherson Photographers – HIFA