HIFA:The Greyman Experiment Shames Xenophobia

In stark contrast with the vile xenophobic violence spewed across our television screens in recent weeks, “The Greyman Experiment” is a theatrical collaboration between South African and Zimbabwean artists, to be showcased at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) this week.

Zimbo Jam caught up with the play’s director Leeroy Gono who believes art is a “uniting force,” especially in times of conflict and violence. Gono remains committed to the ideals of the production and feels that is his actors “can work together, share the same stage in spite of the xenophobia, it will go a long way in addressing this issue.

“In light of the call by my fellow Zimbabweans on social media to retaliate by boycotting the shows with South African artists, as a production house we will not be recasting the South African actor but we will instead make a statement to show that we are a civilized people and want peace and harmony to prevail.  

“As an artist, I am therefore calling upon all artists to unite and fight this madness that has plagued our society, we are all Africans.”

“The Greyman Experiment” is a witty comedy that stars South African actor, Bongani Xulu, and Zimbabwean acress Precious Mudzingwa (In last year’s HIFA she acted in the poignant play, “The Gods You’ve Built“. The two performed the play, written by Mandisi Gobodi and directed by Leeroy Gono, in 2014 at the Protest Arts International Festival, also in Harare.

This two-person play takes you through some complicated mindgames played by the “grey” man and woman, whose lives seem to have been dulled by the mundaneness of urban lifestyle. Secret observations are conducted by both to figure out how best to manipulate each other into full compliance. It’s a strangely compelling play that definitely makes you think.

Some weeks ago, there was a threat by some Zimbabwean artists to boycott any acts, including those at HIFA, that included South African artists. Rather than vilifying South African artists, Gono believes that as artists we need to work together to end xenophobia and violence.

“The arts play a pivotal role in addressing the issue and opening dialogue. The good thing about our show, for example, is that it becomes a uniting force, because when two people perform together, they have to become one person in order to truly convey their message.

“This will also show other people that we can indeed come together and stop this.”

HIFA together local and international arts and culture to show a positive side to Zimbabwe.

Among the African stars performing is the critically acclaimed singer and songwriter Netsayi Chigwendere.

She spoke about moving from the UK to Zimbabwe and her vision of traditional Zimbabwean music.