Notes from Linkfest ‘99
-adapted from INTUNJA Newsletter-

WINDHOEK, NAMIBIA. Linkfest 99, Namibia, has come and gone. With all the hustles and excitement experienced in organizing and running the Festival. Nonetheless, there was a strong feeling among the organizers that it was a worthwhile challenge. The festival could not have been a success without the organizing skills of Ms Nomadlozi Kubheka, the Director of Linkfest Art Promoters of Bulawayo, and the unwavering support from our major donor, SIDA-Stockholm. Credit is also due to Namibia, the host country, ably represented by their organizing team consisting of Laurinda Olivier- Sampson, Ngoni Sango, Norman Job and Fred Philander. Like in all previous years that Linkfest was held in Bulawayo, even here the festival has proven to be a rousing success. It is hoped that future festivals will rotate throughout the SADC region.
    Ms Kubheka informed the writer that she could not have asked more from a team as committed as the Namibian team; and added that she had worked with other teams in the past eight years, but felt that this was one of the best teams since Carolyn Kutchyera, who she worked with in the first LINKFEST ’91.
Admitting that the festival was not completely hassle-free, she had this to say: "Many people always look for success; this is good, but it’s not everything. My aim is to share my skills and knowledge and when things turn out well, good!... This is what makes me proud."
Just when there were fears that the festival might be in serious shortage of funds, world-renowned donor organization the Rockefeller Foundation gave the festival a shot in the arm with a handsome grant to add on the SIDA’s contribution.
    The Keynote was given by Councilor Joseph Auala, on behalf of the Mayor of Windhoek. He emphasized that the strength and future development of the SADC region could be realized in the consolidation of its culture and arts, hence the need to acknowledge the importance of LINKFEST Festival to bring together, promote and enhance performing art in the region.
The Executive Mayor of Bulawayo could not attend in person, but his speech was delivered by Mr M.B.R. Mpofu (Honorable Councilor of Bulawayo, and Linkfest Trustee). He pointed out that the rotation of LINKFEST to other SADC countries did not compromise its significance of its birthplace in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. According to the Mayor, rotation was necessary so neighboring countries could share in the prestige of this important event.
    Also gracing the festival were such dignitaries as Professor L. Mbuyamba, UNESCO’s Regional Cultural Adviser who expressed support for this biannual event. Prof. Mbuyamba, in his presentation, confirmed UNESCO’s deep interest in Linkfest programs and the theatre events in the region. He commended the role of women and their contribu-tions to the development of theatre activities in southern Africa. He also advised that special attention be given to marginalised youths in towns and remote rural areas.
Ms. Gunilla Selerud, the SIDA representative, participated and observed all seminars and some workshops and performances. She also congratulated the organizing team and Ms Kubheka for the brave move to host the event in Namibia. She reiterated SIDA’s commitment to encouraging more of women leadership, especially in theater. She said Nomadlozi was one of those women supported by SIDA. She apologized that Ms Nordeson from Stockholm could not come because of other commitments, but had sent Stockholm’s best wishes to all LINKFEST’99 participants. Gunilla said she hoped the discussion would come out with important suggestions for the new Millennium.
    Officially opening LINKFEST'99-Namibia Performing Arts "Ubuntu Bomuntu" Festival, The Honorable Minister of Basic Education and Culture, Mr. John Mutorwa, echoed the fact that the SADC region shared similarities in most traditions, and opined that the festival could create the best environment for growth and learning through collective talent and skills. "It is through our culture, arts, dances, traditions, that the SADC community of nations must be built," the Minister remarked. Linkfest has proved beyond doubt that it is a people’s theatre through live performances, and not the media portrayal, that best reflect their communities and cultures. SADC countries, therefore, should not only formulate political ties, but also strengthen understanding using the arts. Mr. S. Sibanda presented some of the most important papers at the close of the seminars; Princess Dlamini, one of the best female choreographers in the region, conducted a moving skills-workshop. Minda Drama Group presented their touchy story on child abuse. The Director of National Art Council of Zimbabwe, Mr T. Chipangura, was on hand as resource person, as well as a professional. Participants praised Mr. Chipangura for his unwavering support of the arts. His commitment and eagerness to learn impressed all the theater practitioners.
    Highlights from the festival included quality performers like Electra from the University of Namibia; Namibia Marimba & Dance group by Banana Shekupe from the School of Arts; Kitwe Little Theatre, who performed Shadows of Gray; not forgetting the rousing Botswana National Theatre Ensemble. Language barriers notwithstanding, audiences enjoyed themselves.
Other not-so-good performances were ascribed to badly directed plays, and, sadly, the audience was very unforgiving for poor showings. Realizing Linkfest’s commitment to encouraging community-based groups, the need for audience-building programs became very apparent.
    LINKFEST’99 in Namibia was the first time the event was organized outside Zimbabwe, and the Namibians have asked to do it again in 2001! Main funding was provided by the
SWEDISH EMBASSY (SIDA-Stockholm) and the ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION (USA).

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