Home » Arts & Culture » Festivals – What Do ‘Local’ Artistes Benefit? [analysis]

The annual Harare International Festival of the Arts has often come under fire for promoting foreign artistes more at the expense of local acts. It has often been argued that performances at the main stage of the arts fecircte are mainly reserved for international acts while a few local artistes get the chance to showcase their talents at the coveted platform.

Most artistes that are lucky to be part of the festival are grouped for First Street Mall performances, Coke Green Arena or Global stage. Although local theatre productions have had a good share of acceptance in the Standard Theatre, some critics still believe a lot has to be done to promote local talent at the festival. Some theatre producers are forced to adopt themes that please organisers of the festival to be accepted, which stifles creativity.

But the Hifa case is just a tip of many other cases that have irked local arts followers when international artistes get better treatment than our local acts.

Deputy Minister of Media, Information and Broadcasting Services Supa Mandiwanzira has been on record criticising how foreign artistes are paid far much more for performances when local acts that share the stage with them get peanuts.

His comment goes on a pile of many other concerns about how our local artistes, especially musicians, are treated when they share the stage with the so much revered international acts.

Local musicians have raised their voices over the issue but it seems promoters do not take them seriously. The local acts are made to feel so much inferior when they perform with international acts. They are forced to accept that the platform they get when performing with “big acts” is good for their exposure and they should not ask for much.

Some of the upcoming artistes have been indoctrinated to the extent of accepting to perform for free just because sharing the stage with so and so who is internationally-recognised would enhance their CVs while it also exposes them to huge crowds. Nonsense!

Local audiences still attend shows when there are no international acts. Of course popular foreign musicians attract huge crowds but claiming that local artistes can ride on the fame of the visitors is poor reasoning.

Winky D stole the limelight when he shared the stage with D’Banj from Nigeria but the latter pocketed mega bucks for the show. Winky D has always done well during performances and does not need D’Banj to attract attention.

It is good to bring international acts but it is not fair to treat local artistes like “outsiders” when someone from abroad is performing.

Well, that brings us to the issue of the day. There will be numerous regional festivals in the country in the next few weeks.

Chimanimani Arts Fetsival takes place this month and this weekend Masvingo hosts the Youth Cultural Arts Festival. In September there will be Intwasa Festival in Bulawayo and Midlands Arts and Culture Festival.

Let us bring the bigger picture closer home. Many artistes from beyond the regions that host events perform at these festivals. Many big names like Oliver Mtukudzi, Suluman Chimbetu and Nicholas Zakaria have performed at Chimanimani Arts Festival while YOCAF hosts artistes from beyond Masvingo province.

The same applies to Intwasa and Midlands festivals. Now, the question is: how do artistes from these provinces or areas benefit from the festivals taking place in their backyards?

Indeed the organisers enlist many “local” groups to perform at the festivals. What benefits besides the so called “exposure” do these artistes get?

There are many upcoming artistes in the provinces where these regional festivals take place and they deserve more benefits from the events than just sharing the stage with the Mtukudzis and company.

The festivals should empower artists within their areas and make these events important stepping stones for the talented individuals and groups from their communities.

Some of these upcoming artistes rarely do shows and festivals should reward them handsomely so that they get resources to catapult their careers. The organisers should use their influence to forge serious working relationships between the big musicians they invite and upcoming artists. Basically, the regional and provincial festivals should develop talent at grassroots level.

There is no point in blaming Hifa for undermining local talent when our local models for small festivals are the same.

Source : The Herald