PATCHES of mist precariously capped the seemingly endless mountain range as the rising sun shone on green pine plantations that steadily shook and whistled to the morning breeze, making a beautiful Monday morning in Chimaninani.
Throughout the preceding three days, rains had endlessly showered the area and the plantations had dripped on a few labourers that were left in the estates as the majority went down-hill for the annual Chimanimani Arts Festival.
The mountains only saw the sun on Monday as the extravaganza ran from last Friday to Sunday.
Abiding by the traditional adage that rains are a sign of blessings, the festival received bowls of consecration from the heavens. But artists and merrymakers were by no means perturbed by the open skies.
The festival went on smoothly.
Art lovers had streamed all the way from Chikukwa, Muusha, Mutambara, Ndima and Ngorima chiefdoms while others had travelled from as far as Chipinge and Mutare among surrounding areas.
From diverse backgrounds and beliefs, they were all lured by the sound of drumbeat and contemporary music.
Some came to drown memories of the reign of terror that swept through the province as state security agents descended on the Chiadzwa diamond fields in Marange to quell the diamond rush last year.
They still have fresh tales of the haunting experiences at the hands of security agents.
Others came to sell their wares to try and make ends meet in an area where one can hardly get employment. A once thriving timber industry crumbled years ago due to notorious farm invasions, leaving them jobless and scrambling to make ends meet.
But some survive on catching and selling small birds that are popularly known as ngozha. They venture into the tall grass by the night and trap the birds with nets, risking encounters with dangerous snakes that also hunt for the same prey.
Others opt for a less dangerous ways to make money. They trade in raw wine that is known as Vhinyu, a corrupted translation of Vines.
All concur that the festival is their best market. Even formal businesspeople and hospitality industry operators know that tourists, who used to throng the mountains in droves, are now as rare as manna and they have to grab every opportunity that the arts fete offers.
The event has become a source of life besides providing quality entertainment for free.
This year’s edition saw an array of entertainment activities that included music, poetry and theatre.
Oliver Mtukudzi was the main attraction at the event but he did not live up to expectations.
He came with the backing of AY Band, which the organisers said was the officially invited performer while Tuku was just featuring. Tuku came to the stage to do the song Mweya, which is on his late son Sam’s upcoming album.
Tuku has always confessed that it is a song that consoles him whenever he misses his late son. The musician also did a few of his own songs but many that were expecting much from Tuku were disappointed.
But dendera musician Sulumani Chimbetu did his best and wowed the crowd with a good performance.
Also coming up with an unexpectedly polished act was rising mbira star John Pfumojena, who is well-known as an actor.
Mookomba, Gwarimba and Andy Brown also lived up to the occasion.
Performers from Manicaland province that included Band Mutare, Sunrise, Senior Musareketa and Ngangu Band also featured.