Intwasa NOW and THEN

Bruce Ndlovu
BULAWAYOa��S premier arts extravaganza, the Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo, kicks into gear next week with a number of high profile artistes from around the country and the world set to make appearances.

This yeara��s festival, running under the theme My Intwasa, Your Intwasa, Our Intwasa, will run from 21 to 27 September. Now in its 11th year, the festival has grown from an untested infant on the countrya��s cultural calendar to a fully grown highlight in its own right.

The festivala��s beginnings are as humble as it gets, with its initial meetings held in local hotels before the switch to small offices at the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo in 2005. A decade later and its fortunes have turned for the better, the festival is now housed at the relatively plush five-roomed office at Lapf House.

One artiste who has seen the festival through its ups and downs is Marabi maestro Jeys Marabani who remembers the fest in its initial stages when it was still financially cash-strapped. Marabini has become a regular feature at the arts extravaganza, performing in most editions.

a�?I recall fondly my performance at Intwasa because back then everyone felt familiar with each other and we were all very much a family. Back then things were harder and I remember I had to lend the festival my sound equipment because they couldna��t afford any,a�? he said.

Marabini said that he had not initially planned on performing during this yeara��s festivities, as he felt that it was now time to give new blood a chance.

a�?I had said that I wasna��t going to perform at the festival this year but when they gave me a call I didna��t hesitate to say yes. Ita��s great to see so many artistes from all over the world converge for this yeara��s Intwasa. Seeing the line-up for this year one is proud to say that Intwasa is representing us well.

Comedian Ntando Van Moyo, who first graced the festival in 2010 when Baya took over, said that the enduring memory from his first time at the festival was the poor crowds which are in sharp contrast to audiences for most of the shows in the last two years.

a�?Back in 2010 the one thing that I remember were the poor crowds that came for the shows. It was very demoralising back then because as a performer you like to feel the support of the crowd to spur you on,a�? he said.

Van Moyo said that this year was special for him as invitation for the fest indicated that the Umahlekisa brand had truly arrived.

a�?Ita��s great to get invited to the platform this year because it shows how far we have come. It also shows that various entertainment brands in Bulawayo are happy to work together.

Festival director Baya concurred with Van Moyo that the improvement in crowds was what marked this yeara��s fest from earlier editions.

a�?Back then the crowds were disappointing and the support from the people of Bulawayo wasna��t that great. With this yeara��s edition all that has turned around with the only challenge going forward being to convince the country that this is not a Bulawayo thing but a Zimbabwean thing,a�? he said.