DJ Nikki Motivates crowd at HIFA.

Star FM’s DJ Nikki provided the most poignant moment during HIFA’s opening show last night when she stepped onto the stage and asked the 3,000 strong crowd to get to their feet and repeat after her a number of things that Zimbabweans young and old have long forgotten – and maybe don’t believe anymore.

The HIFA opening show is one of the most anticipated single events on Zimbabwe’s entertainment calendar. It sets the tone for the festival and often features amazing collaborations by a myriad of artists who have their own shows during the festival.

During the years when Zimbabwe’s economic and political problems seemed to reach their peak, 2004-2008, the HIFA opening also became known for summarising the country’s socio-political situation and making a bold statement about the injustices that were taking place.

After a few run-ins with the authorities, HIFA has turned down the volume on its political overtones. On the other hand the government, realising that HIFA was good for the country’s economy and image, started promoting it through the Ministry of Tourism and an uneasy partnership was born.

Political statements aside, last night’s opening had too many elements that we’ve seen over and over again at HIFA openings. The sense of déjà vu as dancers repeated familiar moves and then filled the stage in colourful outfits, leaning heavily on the notion of spectacle to wow the audience, was overpowering.

We’ve seen this before. Different musical score. Different combinations. Same show.


Mokoomba, the main feature of the show last night, did not disappoint, and, located on an elevated platform at the back of the stage, while the focal action took part in the foreground, did their usual magic in the background. Their presence provided one of the saving graces of the show.

The one big statement the opening concert made was to call for Zimbabweans to remember that they were strong and brave; through the booming, confident, amplified voice of a regally dressed DJ Nikki;

“You are part of an amazing chorus that declares the power of many…
You see boldly and bravely.
Compassion, community and truth
We are all part of that power brothers and sisters.
We all proudly stand together
We stand together with a unified voice
Repeat after me…
We are powerful!
We are brave!
We are creators!”

And as the crowd got to their feet and shouted those words of affirmation with Nikki, somewhere in the ether the echoes were that yes we are powerful but we have forgotten our power. Yes we are brave, but we keep on showing our selfish, cowardly sides. Yes, we are creators, but we timidly walk about as victims of the situation around us.

And, antithetical to the theme of HIFA this year, we shy away from ‘articulating’ our truths, do not speak up for one another and do not stand together when it’s called for most.

The fireworks display at the end was another saving grace. One of the biggest and most elaborate we’ve seen. As we whipped out our phones to take photos of the coloured lights streaming across the sky and as we oohed and aahed, we quickly forgot the lies we had just told in unison.

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