Zimbabwe’s resilient creative industry

It’s a cool and rainy afternoon, not unusual for this time of year. The roads aren’t as packed as during the week, ensuring that the drive to my destination is short and pleasant. I’m glad for the cooler weather. It creates the perfect ambiance for my first Hustlers Market, hosted at Moto Republik.

Moto Republik is one of several spaces created for and by the many creatives in Zimbabwe’s capital city, but it’s certainly one of the most well-known creative hub in Harare. It’s perfectly located: easy to access, but also a bit away from the noise and traffic of the central business district. I could hear the bass of reggae the closer we got to Moto Republik. Blue and yellow streamers announced that this was a special Saturday, the final Hustler’s Market of the year. Dodging muddy patches and murky puddles, I stepped into Moto Republik ready to see what it was all about.

Started in July 2015, Moto Republik is billed as the “first creative hub in Southern Africa.” It’s a small space, built vertically rather than horizontally. This allows for a seating area, parking spots, and an ease of movement that makes the place easy to navigate. Reused shipping containers serve as the offices, stacked diagonally to make a three storey high building. Each container is an office,  and walking up the stairs I get the chance to peek into a few. Magamba Network occupies one. A fashion designer occupies another. I don’t want to miss all the action happening in the market downstairs.

The music is superb. My hips sway along to Buju Banton’s ‘Party in Session’, the two djs effortlessly mixing dance hall classics and Zimbabwean hip hop. People mill around walking from stall to stall. Others are by the lawn, where they sit on wooden benches enjoying food from the Burger Boys. In the corner is the bar. I head over there, buying a white wine sangria, per recommendation of the bartender. She asks if this is my first Hustlers Market, assuring me that the other events held during the year were more packed than this one. I take a sip of the sangria. It’s the best one I’ve ever tasted.

This is the second time I’ve been to 3 Allan Wilson Avenue. The first was for the inaugural Creative Mornings Harare talk in mid-November. It is a mix of established entrepreneurs and newcomers such as myself. There was Comrade Fatso walking past, a cup of coffee in hand and red hi-tops on his feet. Webpreneur Fungai Tichawangana is the speaker for the talk, described as a “breakfast lecture series for the creative community.” Photographers from Zimbojam are there, with the brains behind the Mosaic festival and the Curate Feminism twitter account in attendance. Lo (@LOCHNATION) is the host for the talk. The blackboard wall is covered with designs announcing the theme of the first Creative Mornings Harare talk, fantasy. As the lecture progresses, it’s clear that this isn’t a one-way flow of information. People ask questions, interrogate some of the aspects of Tichawangana’s lecture on the fantasy of the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative, and after the lecture, everyone huddles together around refreshments to discuss and share ideas.

This spirit of creative collaboration continues at Hustlers Market. The clothing and accessories stalls are clustered together. They all carry the same African aesthetics that have become popular, with handbags, clutches, and necklaces fashioned in dashiki print and vibrant colours. A pair of large earrings catch my eye. I’ve never seen anything quite like them. The woman behind the stall has her own shop in Melton Park. She passes me her business card along with the earrings I buy.

There are many other creatives in Harare and Zimbabwe. Groups such as Comexposed, the people who have an entered a brave new world of Zimbabwean comics. Designers such as Tanya Nefertari who have established established a brand that embodies quality and style. Artists like Jah Prayzah whose music videos have set a standard for others. And many others not yet known, who work and hustle to make it in a small industry.

It’s because of this hustle and never-ending drive that Zimbabwe’s creatives have managed to carve a niche for themselves in a place with such unforgiving economic conditions. Perhaps it’s because of this that these artists and creators have cloistered together into a tight-knit community rather than a cut-throat industry.

All photos in this article are property of the website’s owner and are subject to copyright. 

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4 Comments

  1. Oh my, you write so beautifully! I missed the Hustlers Market on Saturday something came up and it was going to be my first time attending 😦 The good thing though is after reading this I feel like I was right there. I hope to make it for the next one.

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