Friday, April 8, 2011

University of Zimbabwe hosts Disability Arts Festival


Disability Arts Festival opened on Tuesday at the University of Zimbabwe's Beit Hall with standout performances by up-and-coming artistes.

The festival for people living with disability is running under the theme "Navigating and Renegotiating Marginality: Cultural and Artistic Dimensions".

The four-day event seeks to shed light on relevant social, political, cultural and economic issues affecting society.

Previously known as "Theatre Arts Week", the festival has attracted different artistes in music, theatre, dance, poetry and visual arts taking part.

The main aim of the event is to address issues and challenges affecting the disabled people not only within the academic or professional set-up but also in the community at large.

Discussions on different topics such as how to overcome discrimination stemming from disability, gender violence, risk management and cultural marginalisation, among others, are also part of the festival.

One play titled "The White Man from Buhera" stole the hearts of many as it focuses on the life of one of the lecturers at the university, Professor John Makumbe, who was once neglected by his father because of his albinism.

Another play, "Imagine Masimba", focuses on the travails that a disabled person called Masimba goes through in his efforts to assert his rights in a society that regards the disabled as misfits in every sphere of life.

He suffers a major setback when he is turned down for a job because of his condition, despite having graduated from college with flying colours.

Hweva Mvura directed the play.

In "The Visionaries", a blind boy from a poor family suffers from low self-esteem because of his state, and this has ripple effects on his social life.

The brainchild of disabled students at the institution, the festival will also see some renowned artistes rubbing shoulders with upcoming artists during performances.

Talented contemporary music outfit Soul Bone, whose members have a variety of disabilities, will entertain the crowd at the festival in an effort to prove to the world that disability is not inability.

Renowned jazz group Talking Guitars are part of the guest performers and so is the Midlands State University Band while students from the UZ's Faculty of Theatre Arts will showcase their plays titled "High Rate, High Risk" and "The Dawn", which they collaborated with the institution's Disability Resource Centre.

There will also be film screenings with the movie "Ithemba" topping the bill.

Some of the keynote speakers and presenters at the festival include renowned author and academic Bridget Chinouriri, Washington Nyamukapa, Ennie Munashe and Professor John Makumbe, among others.

Last year in March, the Theatre Arts Week was exciting in many ways and the organisers are in consultation with various partners on how to strengthen and expand the programme.