Mourning and melancholia at the Harare International Festival of the Arts | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2040-199X
  • E-ISSN: 1751-7974



This article has a twofold purpose: first, I look at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) as a site of mourning and melancholia – to use the phrase that was first used by Sigmund Freud in his seminal paper and which was reformulated more recently by a postcolonial scholar Ranjana Khanna. I suggest that unconscious mechanisms, which are expressions of loss on the part of both black and white Zimbabweans, are acted out in the festival. In particular, on the part of white Zimbabweans it might be an expression of the so-called ‘white alienation’ experienced after the loss of domination. Second, I also look at assertions of a feminist academic, Sara Ahmed, who claims in her book Embodied Strangers that it is difficult, if at all possible, to circumvent the embodied and cultural context of an encounter between a representative of a western culture and the Other. I present a case study of the opening show at HIFA 2011, which seems to confirm this theory. However, I also suggest that it might be possible to subvert this expected narrative through a Winnicottian notion of a space for creativity and play. I look at two different examples of such encounters and cite the poem by Charmaine Mujeri in which she describes her hybrid identity.


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