HARARE – Zimbabwe dancehall king Wallace “Winky D” Chirumiko and gospel star Blessing Shumba are among a galaxy of stars set to light up the two-day Kumakomoyo Arts Festival (KAFest) which kicks off at Mutare’s Sakubva Stadium today.
The annual arts festival, organised by the Zimbabwe Prison Services (ZPS), presents a diverse programme that includes music, poetry and drama with the key objective of using art as a vehicle for fighting crime by rehabilitating offenders with artistic skills.
Running under the theme “Fighting crime and the HIV pandemic through artistic rehabilitation and empowerment,” the arts festival will provide an opportunity for prison inmates to showcase their talents while interacting with established artistes.
The bands that will represent Zimbabwe Prison Services at this year’s festival include Mansa and Echoes Band.
Other performers on the festival programme that ends on Saturday are the energetic Mutare-based Jusa Mupositori and Millicent Tsakatsa.
KAFest has been made possible through generous assistance of the European Union and the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust.
The festival is one of the beneficiaries of the two-year EU-Culture Fund programme for the development of Zimbabwe’s arts sector.
The European Union — Culture Fund Partnership for Arts and Culture Development was established to provide funding and technical assistance to the arts and culture sector in Zimbabwe.
The objective of the partnership is to sustain the arts sector through increasing the opportunities and visibility of cultural actors.
It invests directly into initiatives by cultural practitioners, civil society organisations and institutions.
The ZPS values the role the festival plays in the fight against crime.
“Our objectives include exposing and marketing the talents of inmates while providing a platform for the reintegration of offenders into mainstream society through practical skills training and linking them with established artistes,” said Thandani Ndlovu, the regional rehabilitation coordinator for Manicaland.
“This is in line with our new thrust as we move from punishment to a correctional service for offenders in our society.”
The other objectives of the Kumakomoyo Arts Festival include identifying and grooming talent within the prison community, alleviating the distress associated with closed institutions, and providing psychological support in order to encourage behavioural change among inmates.
Since the festival was established in 2005, ZPS in Manicaland has nurtured over 10 inmates who have become professional musicians. Elton Bushe, who has been mentored by award-winning Mutare gospel star Blessing Shumba, is perhaps the most notable success story of this programme.
Shumba is proud of the work he is doing to assist inmates and the festival.
“The Christian community has a responsibility to assist with rehabilitating and reintegrating offenders into society through ministering the word of God,” the National Arts Merit Award (Nama) award winner told the Daily News.
“We support prison inmates through group prayer sessions and artistic training and mentorship to give them a chance of a crime-free future.”
Shumba added that over the past few years he has also helped the Mansa Band whose members are drawn from prison inmates to record an album. He also said that work on a second musical project with the same outfit is at an advanced stage.
The Kumakomoyo Arts Festival was established at Mutare Farm Prison in 2005 as Sisonke Tiritose Kumakomoyo Arts Festival. The arts showcase has since grown to attract a large number of performances and audiences. It was rebranded Kumakomoyo Arts Festival (KAFest) in 2009.
The festival’s partners and sponsors include the European Union, the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, Sida, the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, Family Aids Caring Trust (Fact), Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe (PFZ), the City of Mutare, the ministry of Information and National Aids Council.