This year the Zimfest phenomenon reaches the shores of five continents and will be celebrated in dozens of countries around the world. One of the charity festival's newest host cities is Perth, which celebrated its first event in 2008. Excitement is currently building for the next event, which is to be held on September 5, 2009. The stage is set for a breathtaking and exponential ascent of the concept of Zimfest, as Western Australians turn to gather Zimbabwean scatterlings comes around once again; all in the name of Zimbabwean charities.
Zimfest, which is run entirely by volunteers, basically serves two functions. The first is to bring the entire Zimbo community together in one place. We all know how it goes: Everyone knows everyone from back home, but it is very rare to have the entire community all together in one place for a good party and a good catch-up with people we haven't seen all year. In fact,probably not since the last Zimfest!
The second function, of course, is to use the opportunity to try to raise a few dollars for the people and places in need back home and for a cause that is very close to the hearts of expat Zimbabweans. That is, the support of old age pensioners who are back home struggling to get by with no income. Although they've tirelessly contributed to superannuation funds their whole lives, the money is practically wiped out almost overnight by the runaway inflation that Zim has experienced over the last 10 years. The organisation Support for Old Age Pensions runs a program to provide hampers and other support directly to old age homes. Last year we raised over $14,000 for the organisation and this year we hope to do a lot better. We have also considered supporting the conservation of wildlife in Zim, with the idea being that this is Zimbabwe's main tourist attraction. Without our beautiful wildlife we have nothing. One of the key answers to getting our country back to it's feet is enabling the land to work for itself again and getting tourists back there to spend some of those valuable US dollars to get the industry up and running again. As a result we are also donating to the Victoria Falls Anti Poaching Unit, as well as supporting a cause called The Tashinga Initiative, which is striving toraise funds for rhino conservation.
The Tashinga Initiative is the same cause for which two Zim chaps, James Reid and Riley Travers, are as we speak, rowing from the source to sea of the Zambezi River over a period of 3 months, to raise awareness for the plight of the black rhino in Zimbabwe. Their project is called "Row Rhino Row",
Zimfest was started by a bunch of Zimbos in the United Kingdom and today over 20,000 Zimbabweans frequent the event every year. Since then, it has spread to Australia, the United States,, South Africa, New Zealand and for the first time this year, to Zimbabwe itself, with a festival being held in Bulawayo in December. Zimfest Brisbane is three years old, and last year Perth just kind of jumped on the bandwagon. The gig saw nearly 700 Zimbos rock up to support the cause, having one hell of a party in the process! This year we are expecting well over 1,000 people, and are expectations are that we'll grow bigger and better with every passing year. There has been a great deal of generosity shown by various people and businesses, both in Zim and here in Perth and we have some amazing prizes to raffle and auction to raise as much money as possible for our charities. This is not to mention that this year is the first (in our whopping two year history!) that all entertainment on the day has been donated by the bands. We also have a guest performer, Fraser Mackay, who is well
known by Harare dwellers in the 90's, coming from Zim to join our line-up, all free of charge. Apart from Fraser joining us, others in this year's line-up include Bud Cockcroft, who plays every year, and traditional marimba bands, Shangara Jive and Dunumba, that have quite a large following in and around the Perth and Fremantle area. Together they make the day the most memorable of the year, and they really know how to please a Zimbo crowd! Of course, just because the name of this gig is Zimfest, it doesn't mean that only Zimbos are allowed to go. I take great, great pleasure in seeing people of other nationalities at the event. Zimfest is public event. It is for everyone. It just a Zim-themed party that raises money for Zim charities.
That is all there is to it. It is about celebrating Zimbabwean culture, but it is for absolutely
anyone who feels that they would like to join in with us and absolutely everyone is welcome. Ozzies and Saffers, if you guys are looking to have a bit of fun and want to embrace something a bit different, you are strongly encouraged to come along! At the end of the day us okes in the Southern Hemisphere all have a similar culture. We all enjoy a few beers and a bit of a braai (ok, ok, a barbie) and we all like to know that it is for a good cause.
Guy Cockcroft is the organiser of Perth Zimfest. For more information on Zimfest Perth and the charities supported by this event see http://www.perthzimfest.com/. Tickets are available online for $35 and includes access to cheap drinks, a full day of live musical entertainment, plus the knowledge that it's all for a good cause.