Harare – first impressions:
Sunday 24 May 2009: It is simply humbling to be here in Harare – despite everything that’s happened, life goes on – in the city, and of course outside the city it will be v different, but here… People are walking around in couples and family groups (it’s Sunday); sun is shining; there is evident poverty but not the folorn-ness that so often goes with it and there are clear signs of a still relatively comfy middle class; the hotel is right in the heart of the city and has clearly seen better days – but the staff are gorgeous and friendly – it’s as tho’ noone has told them that times have changed – so you still get a suite, not a room – the bathroom fittings are rusting, the springs in the sofa are gone (bit of a surprise when you sit!), the Hotel directory still offers wifi but they smile regretfully: am sorry madam, that service is currently unavailable. The ads in the lift promote the restaurant with photos of a profusion of food, most of which is ‘currently unavailable’ and the restaurant stands empty with more than 20 tables fully laid up for silver service whilst three restaurant staff stand together in desultory chat, dressed in old style English uniforms, madly inappropriate for this weather – no A/C of course; the pool sparkles in the photo but the reality is a sad, empty dried up space, showing real signs of neglect; I’ve been worrying because I left my hairdryer in UK but the Hotel Manager puts it into perspective when, as part of the welcome, he warns us there may not be enough water to shower in – but over and above all that, am overwhelmed with the sense of privilege of being here at this time – Ignatius, Dep Director British Council, is divine and I am deeply in love – he is also an award-winning poet and writer and it shows – intelligence, sensitivity and a deep caring concern for both artists and the future of his country is evident from the moment you meet him – he picked us up himself instead of sending the BC driver – am wondering how we convert this to real partnership instead of just flying in and delivering a contract – suddenly, a real rush of feeling that what we are starting here might really matter way beyond our normal raison d’etre; can we really help to make a difference?…..I suppose in the end it’s a question of watch this space – but come on CIDA – let’s do something special, something real…..
I texted this note to CIDA on my first day in Harare and now, some 10 days later, it still seems to convey the impact of actually being in Harare at this time in their history. Perhaps idiotically, I want to share this with CIDA friends and supporters to illustrate how the world wide family of creative entrepreneurs shares values irrespective of economic environment and cultural background. It is extraordinary, inspiring and informative – and I think potentially powerful – let’s see what this community can do –