A thin line

12 07 2017

Mike is multi-talented. He’s been working on the electrics of the cottage so that we can get it functional for renting out, but he can fix computers too and turn his hand to just about anything else; painting, welding you name it. But he’s struggling for work and even had to borrow some diesel off me the other day as he was running out and didn’t have any cash to put fuel in his car.

Smart has been doing tiling and minor building work for us. He’s pleasant, hard-working and also broke. Unlike a lot of builders here he does ALL the work himself; mixing cement, carrying the bricks and of course the building.

Nearly everyone is struggling to get by in Zimbabwe none more so than the artists. So this Sunday I went along to the art fair and expo at the Mukuvisi Woodlands – a nature reserve within the confines of the city which has a selection of non-dangerous game, horse rides, walks and is a great place to go and relax watch the birds and enjoy the animals. Not surprisingly they are also struggling, so it was a good opportunity to go along and lend support.

Works by Daryl Nero, Arthur Azvedo, Helen Leiros and Lyn Barrie were on display (main boards L to R)

It was not a big event but a lot of my favorite artists were on display. I cannot think a lot of money was made but a few paintings had been sold and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Most works were well beyond my budget but I did pick up a couple of small pieces by Roseanne Tunmer that my wife could appreciate (she doesn’t share my taste in art). I heard Roseanne quip as I was paying that she’d be very pleased if someone stole some of her work!

A lion face in progress by Kelli Barker

Heron and tortoise by Roseanne Tunmer, pods by Wayne Stutchbury

Of course not everyone in Zimbabwe is struggling. The kleptocrats who rule the country are very well off thank you and seem quite unconcerned that their shenanigans are widely reported in the independent press. Those who can are helping themselves whilst the rest of us get by – or not.

Some, such as Grace Mugabe – the president’s wife, have millions but don’t use them. She has recently laid claim to the Mazowe dam (reservoir) denying all-comers access to a livelihood or recreation. Local water authority engineers who came to inspect a leak in the nearly 100 year-old wall were chased off in favor of Chinese engineers.

The much vaunted command agriculture scheme has been shown to be a massive money loser . For the uninitiated it is a scheme whereby funding has been acquired (some $500m) to allow mostly resettled farmers who have no access to funds (they have no title for the land they are on and therefore no collateral) the ability to grow maize and solve the nation’s chronic food shortage. The government supplies the inputs in the form of seed, fertilizers and chemicals and then buys back the harvest – at a loss!  400,000 ha were to be identified and a figure of 2m tonnes of maize harvested. At 5 tonnes/ha it is quite doable for less than highly skilled farmers. However only some 160,000 ha were subscribed to the scheme (or 17200 ha according to the government mouthpiece The Herald – I think a zero is missing). This amounts to about 800,000 tonnes at 5 t/ha or an average yield of 12.5 t/ha to achieve the 2m tonnes that has been much quoted, which is wishful thinking of a high order. ART farm where I used to live gets this sort of yield in a good year (which this last season was) and they farm to research standards. The farmers who this scheme targets have, at best, very ordinary farming skills. Even I, and I have basic maths skills, can see that something is badly wrong here.

Trawling the web yields some other interesting figures too. According to the Newsday site farmers started to deliver maize on the 1st April this year. Chatting to the ART farm manager yesterday he told me their maize was still at 14% moisture so hadn’t been harvested (it needs to be 12% or less to avoid storage problems) so I do wonder how this is possible. Is the government going to dry what must be wet maize?

I am struggling to summarize this debacle which even the most basic mathematics can reveal. Perhaps I should close with a quote from an issue of The Financial Gazette; “If figures do not lie, can anyone really give the US$500 million command agriculture initiative much of a chance given this compelling evidence of a nation that has squandered every opportunity at its disposal?”  Dated September 29 2016 it is prescient. Even the ultimate slime-ball of a politician, Jonathan Moyo, has labelled it “command ugly-culture”.

 





HIFA 2014 – Day 6

6 05 2014

HIFA is now over of course. My internet did not work for a full 3 days which is why these posts are late. It took an hour on the phone to a support centre and the good fortune to be chatting to a technician who actually did know what he was talking about to sort it out. It’s still erratic but at least it is working.

I thought the programme this year was good. I only saw 2 plays that I thought were sub-standard but that is the nature of arts festivals. I cannot answer the question as to which was my favorite show but I did really enjoy the acoustic guitarists, all of whom were exceptional in their own way. It is of course common knowledge by now that the government blocked the visas of the South African pop group Freshly Ground who were due to play at the closing ceremony on this last day sponsored by Old Mutual, an insurance company. This was apparently over a song that the group released some years back that mocked the president of Zimbabwe (see this link). In true HIFA fashion a plan was made, another German group stepped up to the stage along with a host of other international artistes and the show went on!

I did not attend the final closing but did get to see a few other things. First on the list was the local National Ballet production – the Breakthrough. A real crowd pleaser with a bit of contemporary ballet and just about every other genre of dance one could think of. It purported to show how all these other styles developed from classical ballet but I wouldn’t vouch for the accuracy of that. The crowd didn’t mind and it was well attended on both days.

 

It was with more than a bit of trepidation that I made my way to the finals of The Trash Queen fashion show but it was not at all what I thought it would be. Participants had to design and make a fashion attire from trash. Any sort of trash would do – air filter, bubble wrap, CDs and loads of other rubbish was used. Participants were individuals and self-help groups, remand centre children and local schools. Fun!

Right after the fashion show I moved nearly next door to hear a South African group John Wizards (apparently named after a band member). They seemed pretty chilled. And the music?  It sounded like it came from Cape Town. Afro something or other. Not my taste.

DSC_0749

Then it was time to go home, exercise and feed the dogs and come back to REPS theatre for Bend it Like Beauty with Ben Voss posing as a Zulu woman who succeeds in insulting just about everyone. Very funny but he had to excise rather a lot of political material and as a result I recognized a lot of stuff from a previous show a few years back. Freedom of speech is enshrined in our constitution but does not apply to everybody. I did not take photos – there are only so many photos one can take of a comedian on stage and anyway, I wanted a break!





HIFA 2014 – Day 5

6 05 2014

Day 5, the penultimate day of HIFA 2014 was sponsored by Coca-cola. I started off slow with the Spoken Word programme because it was next to the next venue I wanted to go to. It’s been going quite a few years and can be very entertaining. Not everyone spoke (poetry usually) but the youngster in the photo had an amazing voice. He is a protege of Oliver Mutukudzi’s centre for aspiring musicians in Norton to the west of Harare.

Zimboita is an Italian/Zimbabwean music group (Zimbo + Ita-lian – get it?) fronted by local drummer/percussionist Blessing Chimanga who proved himself quite the entertainer. It’s difficult to describe the style – Afro/rock/blues perhaps? It went down very well!

Maneli Jamal is an acoustic guitarist of Iranian descent who has spent most of his life on the move. Canada is finally where he finds himself at home. Entirely self-taught he is a virtuoso player and well worth going to see. A very different style of music to the other 2 acoustic guitarists who came to HIFA this year.

Attachded was a circus show presented by Swedish Cultural Council and the Embassy of Sweden. Starring a very big man (who looked like his ancestors must have been Viking raiders) and a very small man they did the best they could with what few props had made it to Zimbabwe. The rest were still in a box in Stockholm! In true HIFA style lots of other artistes helped out and we had other circus performers, trapeze artistes from Belgium (les Cliquets), a local poet and one of the Opera singers and a comedienne compere who did her bit to make the audience squirm (apparently to lose weight). It had all been put together in the previous 12 hours and was good fun.





HIFA 2014 – Day 4

5 05 2014

Friday was Day 4, also known as Golden Pilsner Day (a local brand of beer). I re-attended the DFC Baobab Shadows to get some photos that had eluded me the first time around. That done I watched Short & Sweet, a series of 5 short plays by local writers (though one was actually impromptu). Coming Out by Blessing Hungwe about a son’s clash with his father was excellent. What are the Odds was a bit Monty Pythonesque but not bad. I did not care for City Angel or A Woman Called Carol about a prostitute and social mores respectively. The World Ten Minutes at a Time was an impromptu show by Kevin Hansen and 3 others. Genuinely funny, it went down well.

I Wish Her Well by Norwegian contemporary dance theatre Panta Rei was beautifully danced at REPS. In two acts, it told the stories of 4 women closely related to the dancers in the first act and the second act was based on the diaries of a teenage woman now 82.

Any Other World was a dance production by local (and new) 8 Count Dance Company. Colourful, energetic and fun! They won a NAMA (National Association of Music and Arts) award earlier this year.





HIFA 2014 – Day 3

5 05 2014

Right, now that the internet is back I can post! Hopefully it will last long enough…

Day 3 was Coca-Cola day and quite a busy one for me. First off a play, The Maids, a French written tragi-comedy about sisters working as maids in Paris for a tyrannical and erratic “Madame”. Great direction by Giles Ramsey at the Standard Theatre.

Also at the Standard Theatre was a double dance bill starting with Push Pull by the Dunia Dance Company telling the story of illegal African immigrants into Spain who often die en route. Graphic stuff. The second half was Prelude by Aida Diaz and to quote the programme: “Prelude speaks of the systematic rape of beauty, the loss of innocence and ultimately of forgiveness
and redemption. A hymn to life, born from a deep sigh.”

Will McNicol’s second programme of acoustic guitar music by composers who had influenced him was next door at the NMB Recital Room.  Understated and unassuming he is an extraordinary player. I particularly liked his version of the blues – yes from and acoustic guitar! He has one more show today (Sunday) in the “Battle of the Guitars” with the other acoustic guitar players at HIFA but it’s sold out. Never mind, if he comes to a venue near you go and see him – you will be enthralled.

In the evening I caught singer songwriter Josephine from the UK. Not my style of music but it was a full Lays Global Stage and the rest of the audience enjoyed it.

In the evening was the first performance of the Dance Foundation Course’s “Baobab Shadows”. A collaboration with Dunia Dance Theatre of Belgium and Les Cliquets, trapeze artistes also from Belgium. It made innovative use of shadows and a backdrop. It was enthusiastically received by a small audience. At the second performance I tried a technique of blurring the shots to get an idea of movement. I think it worked well.





HIFA 2014 – Day 2

1 05 2014

A busy day. Traditionally sponsored by CABS, a local banking group, and with it the traditional opera night. Best described as opera light for novices, a lot of small but well known pieces are sung. I am not much of an opera fan but there is no denying the skill of the singers. It’s a fairly casual affair – only the singers and musicians dress up, the rest of us bring food and wine and sit on the grass. Yes, it IS a spectacle but if you missed it this year you will just have to wait until next year.

My first assignment of the day was the National Ballet modelling bridal inspired fashion at the fashion dome. No supermodel strutting here – it was all en pointe. A bit brief the show lasted all of 15 minutes so if you are thinking of catching the second half be on time.

Vibe Culture are a local band that plays “afro-mbira rock fusion” (according to the programme. Not that I would know!). Accomplished musicians all (that’s from my friend Caro who knows about these things) the lead singer has a fantastic voice and the dancer is probably the most photogenic performer I’ve seen in a long time!

Stephen Prutsman looked visibly jet-lagged on stage but still produced great classical piano music with “Bach and Forth” a melange of Bach and other composers moving forward in time (alternating between Bach and the others). If you appreciate good classical music and can recognize great piano playing you should catch the second show on Friday evening at the NMB Recital Room.

aCadao Canto are a Spanish group and very easy listening. They play mainly Galician music and will be on again at Lays Global Stage Thursday evening. If you just want to chill at the end of a hectic day and take in something different, then get there.





HIFA 2014 – “Switch On!” Day 1

30 04 2014

HIFA is up and running again! Day 1 was BancABC day (they sponsored it) and there was plenty to see. I missed one Australian circus show as it was fully booked and as a photographer couldn’t get in (jeez, what are these guys’ priorities?). However there was still a Gong Myoung, a Korean mixed show of music and hip-hop that was amazing. An interesting type of music, some beautiful though I did not take to the opera much. NOBODY, and I mean nobody, does hip hop like the Koreans. Worth seeing just for that so catch them again at the 7 Arts theatre on Thursday.

Second up was an Italian guitarist Andrea Valeri who not only is an extraordinary player but a great showman too. He’s playing again on Sunday at Lay’s Global Stage and again with two other guitarists (I met one on the shuttle bus) in the Battle of the Guitarists at the same venue also on Sunday. Should be good.

Then I got my cellphone stolen by a pretend drunk which is why this is a bit of a rush – spent most of yesterday evening resetting passwords! Will get back to this and update it tonight – I promise.