HIFA distances itself from Russian artist’s ‘publicity stunt’

The Harare International Festival of the Arts denies any association with Petro Wodkins

By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
21 January 2014

The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) has denied being associated with a Russian modern artist, who claimed last week to have been invited to present an artwork at the Festival.

Petro Wodkins, a self confessed provocative artist, last week released a music video to accompany a song he wrote that mocks Robert Mugabe for being ‘bad for Zimbabwe’. That song was wired to play out of a gold statue he designed and built, and which he said he submitted to HIFA, after being invited.

Wodkins, who also said he was subsequently disinvited from the Festival, took the statue to Zimbabwe earlier this month and travelled around parts of the country, filming the public’s reaction to the song.

However, HIFA has strongly denied having any knowledge of Wodkins, calling it a ‘publicity stunt’. HIFA’s communications officer Tafadzwa Simba told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that the Festival authorities never invited Wodkins, and had never heard of him.

“This is a hoax,” Simba said.

Wodkins said last week that his statue was eventually destroyed by Zimbabwe’s security forces, after he left it on a public road. He has since insisted that he was invited to display his statue in Zimbabwe, and that the withdrawal of the invitation was because his work was “something bad for Mugabe.”

His spokesperson said via email communication that “in a post Mugabe Zimbabwe he’d love to come again.”

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