The Zimbabwean town of Bulawayo recently finished hosting the 4th edition of Intwasa Arts Festival. During the 5-day event, local and international playwrights, actors, dancers, painters, poets and musicians exchanged ideas and showcased their different talents. Voice of America English to Africa Service reporter Netsai Mlilo says Bulawayo residents and artists were treated to a feast of entertainment.

Several authors, including renowned historian Pathisa Nyathi, launched their latest books. Others exhibited paintings and sculptures while poets read their compositions at "slam poetry" or free verse sessions judged by the audience.  Local and international theater groups staged plays tackling a broad range of subjects.  Aside from showcasing their works, this year's Intwasa offered artists a chance to sharpen their skills.

Renowned American playwright, Leslie Lee, was one of several international artists who attended the festival. Lee conducted a 2-week workshop for local playwrights and actors. He said interacting with local artists gave him an idea of the extent of the country's artistic talent: "There are stories to tell here and I find that there is such a goldmine here for talent, for expression, there are voices here that should be heard not only here in this country but also throughout the world. Intwasa really is doing the right thing in showcasing this talent here so you all here have something to be proud of."

American actress Heather Massies co-hosted a workshop with Lee.  She focused on imparting acting skills to actors. Massie said she enjoyed conducting the session and looks forward to coming back to conduct further training events,  "Zimbabwe is a wonderful place.  It's been an honor to work with the artists here.  They have so much to give and are making beautiful art here.  Not just the writers but also the visual artists, the literary artists, the dance, the music it's so full of life."

Freelance actor, Gift Chakuvinga, participated in a writers' workshop.  He enjoyed combing through different scripts and acting out lines from a variety of plays:

"It's been quite a challenge playing all these different characters from different plays.  All these plays were worlds apart, so in a way it's something which has really groomed me as an actor to be able to adapt very quickly to different situations, different scenes and different writers' stories. Every writer has his own way and his own way of presenting on stage so it's something which has given me a lot of experience in terms of flexibility."

Chakuvinga, who's also attended all 4 Intwasa festivals, says he's delighted at the pace at which the annual event is growing:

"Intwasa, I think it's growing in leaps and bounds every year.  It's been running, I mean this is the fourth year and I think it's been bigger than the rest of the years when it started. So I think I can say well done to the organizers and everyone who was involved in making this festival a success."

Meanwhile the countdown to the next Intwasa Festival has already begun. Organizers and artists say they hope next year they won't have to grapple with cash shortages caused by the country's economic crisis.