International Event MTN Bushfire Festival

By Tsadenna G. Assefa, December 01, 2019

The nation formerly known as Swaziland changed its name to Eswatini in April 2018 in an attempt to shed the remnants of Colonialism. The small Southeastern African Monarchial country is famous for its rich culture and wilderness reserves. And since 2009, the country has been hosting the Annual MTN Bushfire Festival in the month of May. The festival is an array of cultural expression that forces audiences to reevaluate and reimagine the average definition of a music festival.

The internationally acclaimed Festival incorporates an eclectic collection of arts such as music, dance, poetry, installations and themed workshops. Due to its versatile nature, it has been dubbed as a ‘…more than a festival but a living, breathing ecosystem’. It is hosted in the diverse House of Fire Venue which is is a wonderland of imagination that brings indoor and outdoor experiences in a fusion of culture, expression and architecture, making it the perfect venue for what Bushfire stands for.

The three-day festival is held on four stages all with a unique feature. While the Main stage showcases a remarkable equilibrium of traditional and contemporary as well as collaborations from a wide range of countries and genres, the Amphitheatre is an awe-inspiring performance area with a distinctly unique flavor at its core – a sunken ‘Afro-Shakespearean Globe Theatre’ that houses a range of performances, from music, poetry, dance and others. The third stage, The Barn has a Pallet furniture and a wood chip floor that set the tone for a more intimate festival experience. As the name suggests, it is hosted in a renovated barn with a contemporary feel and is the perfect chill-out space for festival-goers. The fourth stage is Firefly. It is a high-energy environment that creates an opportunity for rising performers and is covered by a nomadic stretch tent with a cocktail bar and features DJs, and rap and hip-hop artists.

The festival grounds also have many other entertainment options such as a lounge, global food village, a marketplace, a kids’ zone and the ‘bring your fire’ zone. The ‘bring your fire’ zone is an interactive and creative space, located at the very heart of the main festival. Bringing the call to action to life through discussions and talk shows around social issues. The space actively encourages participation in socially responsible initiatives and promotes advocacy in an interactive environment.

The zone allows partners and participants to actively engage with the theme to make their personal contribution and bring the festival’s commitment to environmentalism to life during the festival. This area is also a “collective responsibility space to discuss and promote awareness of crucial issues that impact our daily lives as well as our future both locally and globally. Gender equality, sustainable energy, innovation, education, arts development, skill-sharing, HIV & health, orphan/mentorship/support & community development all feature in this vitally important arena”.

This International, yet uniquely African festival brings together close to 20,000 spectators annually from all over the world on a 3-day movement that promotes social change with its #BRINGYOURFIRE call to action. The festival holds an award for the best sustainable event and uplifts youth through “… encouraging the proactive contribution of the individual”.

Since its inception, the festival has encouraged all who participate to heed the call for action, and in the process, the festival has achieved a worldwide reputation for its visionary and authentic approach to raising awareness of the need for social change. Not only is MTN Bushfire achieving this through its messages, but the festival in the past decade has also supported local charities, such as Young Heroes, an initiative that supports over 1,000 AIDS orphans, by donating a significant percentage of its profits to such causes.

MTN Bushfire is part of IGODA (which means to bind together in the Zulu language) circuit which is a partnership born out of the Firefest Route, the brainchild of MTN Bushfire that now encompasses festivals from Mozambique, eSwatini, South Africa, and Reunion Island. These festivals collaborate to facilitate the movement of artists within the region, thereby exposing them to different audiences.

The next edition of MTN Bushfire will be held on 29-31 May 2020. Although this edition’s line up hasn’t been announced yet, previous editions saw megastars such as Yemi Alade, Asa, Sho Madjozi, Sekou Kouyate, Salif Keita, Mandisa, Kwesta, Mr. Eazy, Sampa the Great and many more international acts. The festival offers camping and glamping options to all attendees and is a great place for artists to showcase their works and network while offering festival-goers an unparalleled experience of the arts and music.

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