Spring 2006

Harare’s unsung type heroes [EXTRACT]

Not even eviction and exposure to the elements can stop the Highfield Art Club from printing

The economy might have hit rock bottom with inflation at a staggering 600 per cent; there hasn’t been a drop of fuel since June 2005 (except on the black market); the acute shortage of foreign currency has ensured that the once booming manufacturing industry has all but gone bust; an aids pandemic might be ravaging the nation; and the people’s morale might be at an all-time low as famine stalks the countryside due to last year’s drought. Yet for the people of my country, Zimbabwe, there is always music to ease the stress of day-to-day living. Starting on each Wednesday through the weekend, there is live music to be heard somewhere in and around the city of Harare. Patrons can be seen swilling down gallons of lager well into the small hours of the morning, only to get up a few hours later to report for work at 8am. The ever-increasing price of beer doesn’t seem to deter them, either: music without beer in Zimbabwe would be like baseball without hot dogs in America.

Although in recent years most of these shows have also been advertised in the local press, traditionally the medium has been silkscreened posters that seem to go up automatically every Monday morning. These are usually in red, blue and green ink or a combination of red and blue. They are mostly typographic although sometimes the portrait of a musician is thrown in. They all seem to be done in a similar style, and the best are produced by the originators of the artform, the Highfield Art Club . . .