As the Zimbabwean election hype is slowly dying out, we are slowly drifting back to our usual lives, probably asking the question of what’s next. On an ordinary year, the City of Bulawayo at this time is usually hyped up with the anticipation of the biggest arts event in the city calendar; Intwasa Arts Festival. The Spring festival (hence the name Intwasa) has become synonymous with the post-winter rejuvenation and celebrations around the city. Founded in 2005, it has become noticeable in the recent years that the glory days of the festival seem to be dwindling.
This year the deafening silence in the streets has left us wondering whether the public is still engaging in the festivities. The usual festival delirium is nowhere in sight and the conversations about the event appear to be isolated amongst a few. With a month to go, one cannot help but notice that very little publicity has done the rounds; a clear indication that something is out of order.
It is not a secret that acquiring funding for the event has been a challenge (amongst other issues that have riddled this festival). This has strong armed the director of Intwasa Mr. Raisedon Baya to call out for collaborative efforts and value addition from artistes wanting to perform at the festival. Simply this means that some artistes will have to fund their own shows.
This is an admirable move in terms of establishing a self-sustaining business ideology within artistes who are usually reliant on such festivals to get a pay cheque. However the rhetorical part in this, is that with so much business happening in Bulawayo, many of our well financed stakeholders are failing to see the value addition to their brand through investing in the festival?
The city recently came from a successful Roil Bulawayo Arts Awards event. The glitz and glamour on that day reek nothing less of a well organised and financed event. it has been dubbed as one of the most clean cut events in the country and very few can argue against that on a solid basis. If that is possible for the BAAs then how is Intwasa failing to receive the same contemplation?
Intwasa for corporates provides a platform for increased brand identity, targeted audience reach and elevated brand perception. By choosing a big event like Intwasa, which allows one to associate their brand with other reputable brands in the market, this is one of the easiest ways to showcase that one is swimming with the sharks .
With a big number of attendants at events, sponsors usually have the chance to exhibit their products. This means that the sponsor can get direct feedback from a highly targeted audience regarding the product/service provided by the former. Alert sponsors might use this opportunity to align their product/service with the needs and demands of the audience.
Intwasa has various venues in Bulawayo’s central business district and offers a diverse programme that includes theatre, dance, music, spoken word, visual arts, literary arts and fashion. This means that corporates have a varying choice when it comes to selecting sponsorship deals, hence allowing them to choose the most convenient programmes and venues in line with the brand’s strategy and end goals.
There are so many opportunities the festival has to offer to the corporate world. It is disdaining to hear that such a prestigious Festival is financially struggling to make ends meet. Another simple suggestion (as crude as it might sound) is that Intwasa and the BAAs should be sold as one package since the two entities are already administered by the same faces. This will ensure that resources and the energy spent on the two are at an equilibrium and hence avoid an act of self sabotage.
It is no doubt that Bulawayo is Zimbabwe’s cultural and creative hub. The demise of the biggest arts festival does not only reflect badly on the organisers of the festival but also on the various stakeholders in the city. Failing to seek back the glory days of the festival simply means we have given up on the need for the continuity and the preservation of our cultural and artistic identity.