I won’t spend my valuable time rehashing the facts of the FreshlyGround matter. Everything was ready, and they were turned away at the airport. It was political immaturity and spite. This small-minded behaviour is something I always expect from Zimbabwe. I’ll put it aside for now.
I can’t help laughing at the hypocrisy emanating from some quarters, though. I’ll start with those erstwhile defenders of our freedoms – journalists. Or should I say, defenders of their own freedoms.
On Saturday, they had a march planned, to commemorate World Press Freedom Day, you see. The police approved it, and then banned it at the last minute. (Sorry, one moment, my irony-meter has just spun off the wall, lemme re-attach it).
This, of course, torched the inevitable storm (a la NewsDay) and everyone (including me) went apeshit. Repressive blah blah, on and on, with even Badluck Jonathan coming out firing.
The very next day, The Sunday Mail carried a “story” by Mtha Dube, full of innuendo and speculation about FreshlyGround being banned from HIFA.
This hatchet job was an indicator of the administrative thinking behind the upcoming show, and laid the groundwork for the gov’t refusing to allow them into the country.
Right. Now here is someone whose rights and freedoms have been infringed upon, arbitrarily, just the day before. The very next day, he publishes something calling for, and excusing the infringement of someone else’s rights. Interesting.
I have always believed in freedom. To publish, broadcast and perform whatever your conscience dictates. Artists should not be blocked from performing their works just because one person, or in this case a particular cult, doesn’t like it.
It is art. Whether it’s Erykah Badu singing in Swaziland, or FreshlyGround in Harare, there is no justification for the blocking of art.
And I found it strange that a journalist, whose right to free assembly has been publicly curtailed, would be supporting and celebrating similarly repressive acts.
Then there are those who say nonsense like “If someone insults the father, how can you let them back in your house” or something along those lines.
Listen, you politically immature “children”, Zimbabwe is not someone’s house. We do not have a father. We are a nation, a diverse nation, so keep your paternalistic culture of personality to yourselves and Party functions.
Then some people, many self-styled ‘artists’ amongst them, say that it’s HIFA’s fault, how can you invite FreshlyGround, you knew what would happen.
That’s just like telling a rape victim, silly girl, how could you wear a miniskirt, you knew what would happen. Or in this case, silly girl, you walked down this street four years ago and got raped, how can you return to the same street?
When does victim-blaming become alright? It’s never okay, whatever the victim, whatever the crime. The blame should be laid squarely at the feet of the perpetrator, who in this case is the Zimbabwe government.
Worst of all, how can someone who claims to be an artist excuse repression and the stifling of (mildly) critical voices?
All we’ve done here is make a four year old video even more popular, and raise dormant issues which have nothing to do with present realities.
Oh, the US and UK does it too? For a nation so loudly proud of its “sovhereniti“, we’re very quick to excuse our actions using Western examples, aren’t we? It doesn’t matter who has done it before, that does not make it right.
I cannot in all conscience accept people who claim to care about “the arts” excusing, defending and even celebrating such behaviour on the part of our government.
You are hypocrites. The arts community should stick together, because once our government believes it has the power to arbitrarily censor performances, I guarantee your performance shall be next.
First they came for your neighbour, and you said nothing. Your shortsightedness in the face of repression will come back to haunt you.
Update: As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, three whole months ago Dep Minister Tabetha Kanengoni slammed HIFA heavily, saying it wasn’t “indigenous” enough. It gets me thinking that maybe this isn’t as cut and dried as gov’t is trying to make people think.