Bulawayo finally embraces Intwasa

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Intwasa 2014 has come and gone. It was indeed five days of fun and celebrations. The festival was celebrating 10 years of arts promotion.

Raisedon Baya
Own Correspondent

Obviously, this was a milestone. More importantly the 10th edition coincided with Bulawayo’s 120 years celebrations.

To use the theme of the 2014 edition of the festival it was an unforgettable five days of feasting – both literary and literally.

For years now we have been screaming that festivals are defined by audiences and this year we can safely describe the festival as having been successful because finally the people of Bulawayo were able to embrace the festival and support it the way festivals are supposed to be supported – by attending and paying for events.

Intwasa is a growing festival. This growth was witnessed in many forms this year. The numbers went up in most of our venues. What was more exciting was the numbers that came to pay for shows.

A paying audience is critical to the survival of any serious festival. Shows like UMb Women, Wine&Words,iko kaMadlenya, Comedy Night, Spring Jazz Show and The Live Literature Project were well attended.

This was a sign that the festival has come of age and that the people of Bulawayo – especially arts loving people of this region – had finally embraced Intwasa Arts Festival KoBulawayo.

The other aspects where the festival seems to be witnessing some growth are programming and event management.

For the first time in many years the festival programme was released almost two weeks before.

This enabled people to choose their events and plan properly and the direct result was increased patronage to most festival events. Programming itself was way above average.

Top artists like Jeys Marabini, Sulumani Chimbetu, Ndolwane Super Sounds, Tariro neGitare and Regional poets Frank Langmack, Tim Mwaura and Sir Black made the programme more attractive to local audiences.

More exciting was the energy and vibe coming from schools. It was mind blowing. Many thanks to the Education ministry, particular the provincial directors’ offices – Bulawayo and Matabeleland North – for embracing the festival and encouraging schools to participate.

It is very important to note that Bulawayo has had festivals before and with each festival citizens and residents have responded differently. The city’s response to these festivals is very important.

These responses can either break or make a festival. This year the City Fathers embraced Intwasa and acknowledged its importance.

Bulawayo City Council, through its 120 years celebration committee, partnered the festival and hosted two shows, UMbiko kaMadlenya and Bayethe Bulawayo Concert.

This is obviously the beginning of a formal relationship between Intwasa and the City Fathers.

This kind of partnership will surely help build Intwasa as Bulawayo’s premier arts product. This relationship is very important as we all know that Bulawayo’s history is embedded in the arts industry and it is for this reason that Bulawayo continues to be known as the country’s cultural hub.

A festival is obviously defined by three things: The calibre of its performances and partners that want to associate with it. After years on the road it is now safe to say that Bulawayo has finally accepted Intwasa as its baby.

This means the future is bright. The survival of Intwasa is dependent upon how well the local community comes out to support the festival. International audiences will only jump on the bandwagon when the festival grows a good reputation.

The success of Intwasa is not the result of some genius. It is a direct result of the commitment of the festival’s partners and sponsors. Without these there wouldn’t be a festival to talk about.

Perhaps it is proper to take time and give gratitude to festival partners and sponsors.

A big thank you to Chibuku, Hivos and the Norwegian Embassy, Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, British Council, Plan Zimbabwe, Southern Eye, Pamberi Trust, Nhimbe Trust, AfDis, Ingwebu, Schweppes and others.

Another big thank you to all artists who took part in the 10th edition of Intwasa.

Raisedon Baya is director for Intwasa Arts Festival KoBulawayo