Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA)

HIFA logo.jpg
GenreMusic, Film
DatesEnd of April - Early May
Location(s)Harare, Zimbabwe
Years active1999–present
Founded byManuel Bagorro

The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) is a one week long annual music and arts festival and workshop programme held in Harare usually around late April or early May. The festival showcases local, regional and international arts and culture in a programme of theatre,dance, music, circus, street performance, fashion, spoken word and visual arts. HIFA is the largest arts festival in Zimbabwe and is among the largest in Africa with performances from musicians such as Senegalese star Ishmael Lo, Malian afro-pop singer-songwriter Salif Keita, South African's multiple award-winning kwaito group Bongo Muffin and others.

HIFA was founded by Manuel Bagorro.


The inaugural event took place in 1999. Bagorro, an internationally renowned pianist enjoyed playing at festivals because, according to him, of the rare opportunity of meeting and sharing his talents with other artists. He then developed a keen interest in festivals and especially in the organisation of such events.

I wanted to produce one for my country, Zimbabwe, and so the idea of HIFA was born.[1]

Revenue Model

HIFA is a non-profit making organisation, run as a charitable trust overseen by a Board of Trustees. HIFA charges attendees for shows, and the fee varies depending on the show. HIFA is also funded through sponsorship by various companies. Such companies in the past have included Telecel, Coca Cola, ZOL, Old Mutual, Central Africa Building Society, and others. HIFA also partners embassies of various countries as well as NGOs that include the UN, Hivos, Pamberi Trust HIFA has been reported to cost an estimated US $1,000,000.[2]

HIFA Themes

Each year, HIFA has a theme chosen by the team organising the event. The theme usually reflects on what is happening socially, culturally and even sometimes politically in Zimbabwe. It also serves the purpose of highlighting an element of reflection, discussion and inspiration. Some themes chosen over the years include Hand in Hand, Whats Next and About Face.

Murals Painting

HIFA Murals in Mbare

During each HIFA year, a Mural is painted in the city. HIFA has said they do the Murals as part of urban regeneration to beautify previously marginalised areas. The murals are done by visiting artists and local ones.[3] Some notable Murals have been those painted in the Mbare area.


HIFA has often attracted criticism especially by Zimbabweans who have pointed out that it's "eurocentric" and "elitist" and that it doesn't afford local artists enough visibility.[4]

Political Commentary

One HIFA open show director, Brett Bailey, has said that he uses the shows to air political commentary about Zimbabwe. In an article for the Sunday Times titled "ZIMBABWE: THE MUSICAL", Bailey wrote: " I feel I have a moral responsibility as an artist working within such a context to make something that reflects more than just the ability of the human spirit to transcend adversity. Some feet have to be stomped too. My mission: to find a way to fuse the brazen joy of showbiz with a heavy dose of political commentary and a flare of optimism. ".[5]

In 2014, HIFA's closing show by South African group, Freshlyground, was cancelled only hours before it was scheduled to start[6] when the band was refused entry into the country on arrival at the Harare International Airport. The group were deported apparently for being unwelcome visitors to the country. It is generally believed that they were unwelcome because of their 2010 song "Chicken to Change" (a video mocking President Robert Mugabe for hanging on to power). HIFA was forced to refund festival goers for the show.

Index of the editions

HIFA 2018 - We Count

HIFA 2017 - Staging an Intervention

HIFA 2015 - Articulate

HIFA 2014 - Switch On

HIFA 2013 - What's Next

HIFA 2012 - A Show of Spirit

HIFA 2011 - The Engagement Party

HIFA 2010 - About Face

HIFA 2009 - Enligh10ment

HIFA 2008 - The Art of Determination

HIFA 2007 - It's Show Time

HIFA 2006 - hAND in hAND

HIFA 2005 - What About You?

HIFA 2004 - Heartbeat of the City

HIFA 2003

HIFA 2001

HIFA 2000

HIFA 1999

Organising Team

  • Maria Wilson - Executive Director
  • Tafadzwa Simba - Associate Executive Director
  • Manuel Bagorro - Artistic Director


  1. HIFA Team, HIFA Official Website - via Internet Archive, Retrieved:20 April 2014
  2. Art imitates violent life at the festival that dares to defy Mugabe, Zimbabwe Situation (republished from 'The Times ( http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/africa/article2593129.ece )', Published:5 May 2007, Retrieved:20 April 2014
  3. Minister Kanengoni-Malinga questions Hifa, Pamushana.com, Retrieved:20 April 2014
  4. Itai Mushekwe Hifa pressed to rope in more local artists, Zimbabwe Independent, Published:6 August 2004, Retrieved:20 April 2014
  5. ARTICLES ON HIFA OPENING SHOWS BY BRETT BAILEY, Sunday Times, Published:May 2007, Retrieved:20 April 2014
  6. Freshlyground arrived at Harare International Airport but will not be performing at HIFA this year, HIFA, Published:4 May 2014, Retrieved:4 May 2014