The Organisation of African Union was founded on the 25th May 1963 by Haile Selassie and Kwame Nkrumah with the ideals of “embracing our collective identity and rejoicing in our unique rich heritage and culture.” A network of multi-facetted world music festivals called Southern African Music Festival Circuit (SAMFC) continues the celebration every May. Bushfire festival in the Malkerns valley of Swaziland is the heartbeat of this initiative and happens on the same weekend as Johannesburg’s Africa Day and Durban’s Zakifo festival. The circuit also links with Maputo’s Azgo festival, Harare’s HIFA festival and Saint-Pierrein Reunion’s Sakifo festival. HIFA is the oldest festival in the region, established 1999.It has begun to expand its increasingly influential position in the socio-cultural landscape of Zimbabwe with programs running throughout the year offering innovative performances and exhibitions, community engagement projects, high entertainment sports events, audience development initiatives and event management services. Sakifo, established 2004 have expanded the festival to include an Indian Ocean Music Market for the business of music. Sakifo is instrumental in the start-up of a“little sister festival” in Durban, Zakifo, now in its second year. The festival circuit adds content to existing intergovernmental arts, culture and heritage exchanges, such as The East3route (South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland, Seychelles) and gives a point of focus for international embassies, institutes and sponsors to extend the reach of their promotions.Festivalson the circuit share costs in more efficient ways, and are better positioned to overcome challenges, whether financial, logistical, social or political. These festivals all share a common creative aesthetic and vision for arts development in the region; in a word, “fire.” The fire metaphor, representing conscious and creative sharing for positive social change, was developed by artist and Bushfire festival director Jiggs Thorne. Inspired by the beautiful, free and uplifting, “outside-art” creations of the roadside sculptors of Swaziland, Shadrack Masuko and Noah Mdluli, Jiggs built theiconic stone and sculpture multi-disciplined venue ‘House of Fire’in Swaziland as a sustainable base for artistic expression.
House on Fire is a fantasy-scape that is inspired by meeting points where different stories, symbols and icons come together promoting tolerance and respect. It is a collective picture, a symbiosis of harmony in contrast, that creates an alternative mind-set. Jiggs Thorne
The conscious fire spread like wildfire into the bushfireannual festival, which celebrated its tenth year witha capacity crowd of approximately20 000 visitors from all over the world, all sharing indifferent and dynamic perspectives of the Bushfire experience.
I attended the three day Bushfire festival. From the Kidzone with karaoke to the daily open-mic sessions, from the global food-court to the handcraft and design market; there was something for everybody at the festival. From the poet with a type-writer on a bicycle delivering off-the cuff poems, tothe amateur musicians entertaining around the fires at the camp sites at night; therewas a vibrant and playful freedom of expression.
In the spirit of inclusivity, music gave over to its broadest implications: not just entertainment, but edutainment and inner-attainment. The Silent Conductor from South Africa guided the audience to join and share in the music making with home-made percussion instruments and an easy four/four rhythm.
On the SAFMC, performances and exchanges between the countries of the SADAC region are given greater exposure. The timeless sound of Ghorwane (Good boys), traditional marrabenta band of Mozambique was the musical highlight. Ghorwane have been together since 1992 and build a supreme show around dynamic dance moves, two chord repetitions and a slick horn section.The Cape Town acts put up a highly professional show as always. Newcomers to the big stage, The Nomadic Orchestra bounced about in a boisterous and beautifully bombastic Balkan-like vibe.
Thegreater exposure of performers from the location is a big feature. Bushfire has createda successful feeder system throughout the year.There is an annual schools festival and a monthly “Friday nights live” contest where the best acts battle it out for a spot on the stage at Bushfire.The selection process is based on audience popularity - the crowd decides who the eventual winner is. This year there was a tie between hip-hopper King Terry and diva Pachanga. In total, 40% of the performances at Bushfire were from Swaziland. The joyful performance of the enormous award-winning Swaziland Correctional Services Choir was authentic and moving. And Swaziland singer Bholoja with his soaring and sincere Pan-African Swazi soul sound showed an ability ofworld class.
A great achievement is thegood balance between economic benefits and social upliftment. Bushfire is a R5M festival that generates R30M for the Swazi economy. It is a for-runner in the “creative economy”.
One of the hardest working freelancers on the festival, Liam Brickhill said, “Our messaging includes responsible living in regard to health, sexual behaviour choices and family structures. We believe in social consciousness and changing attitudes to encourage positive change, and in encouraging innovation for a better future.”
HIV is one of the strongest focuses of the Bushfire social upliftment with condoms and the ‘condomise’ campaign having a strong presence at the festival. R15of the festival ticket price is donated to a development programme called ‘Young Heroes,' which provides food, education, health care and vocational skills training for 1000 HIV orphans. This programme has tripled in size since its inception; however there are 300 000 HIV orphans in Swaziland and the highest infection rate in the world with 31% among people aged 18 to 49.
Bushfire has also commenced with strong “greening” initiatives with indigenous tree planting, recycling of all waste, solar powered film screenings and cooking on gas.