Here is the last batch of #NAMALegends @40 Awards honorees.
Shimmer Chinodya: Writer
Belonging to a rare class of exceptional writers, Shimmer Chinodya is a novelist born in 1964 in the City of Gweru. He can be classified as an elder in the literary arts genre. Shimmer studied at Mambo Primary School. He was expelled from Goromonzi High School after demonstrating against Ian Smith’s government. He graduated from the University of Zimbabwe, and the University of Iowa, with an MA in creative writing, in 1985. His political consciousness had a bearing on his writings that are pregnant with latent meanings and expressions. He won the 1990 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for the Africa region. Most of his novels were prescribed to be set books (worthy to be studied in high schools) by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education such as Harvest of Thorns (which won the Commonwealth Writer’s Award for the Best Book in Africa in 1990). Besides, some of his accolades include the following: National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) Outstanding Book for Strife (2007) and the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa. Some of his writings were even studied in tertiary institutions. Chinodya also wrote the script of the award-winning film, Everyone’s Child.
The Noma Award for Publishing in Africa arguably remains one of the outstanding awards that he scooped in his literary arts colourful journey. Dew in the Morning, Harvest of Thorns, Child of War amongst others, are some of the outstanding books penned by this iconic figure in the literary arts genre. Like other earlier educated writers, he became a teacher from 1981–83, and subsequently a curriculum developer under the Ministry of Education. In 1985, he graduated with a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa in the United States of America (USA). Between 1995 and 1997, Shimmer Chinodya was at the University of St Lawrence in the USA where he was a Distinguished Visiting Professor.
His call as a prolific writer came early in his life. Shimmer began to write short stories after he had completed his primary education. He wrote his first novel, Dew in the Morning when he was just 18; the novel was however published in 1982. Since then, Chinodya began to bask in glory publishing novels, ranging from children’s storybooks, secondary school textbooks (Step Ahead: New Secondary School English Coursebook 1-4) and numerous poems in different anthologies. Two of his novels were translated into German is Harvest of Thorns and Strife. Harvest of Thorns was presented as a play during the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) 2013 edition. His peers in writing include late iconic heroes like Chenjerai Hove Dambudzo Marechera and Charles Mungoshi. Several anthologies also contain his writings like Soho Square (1990), Writer’s Territory (1999) and Tenderfoots 2001.
The story of the development of literary arts in Zimbabwe can never be complete without the name Shimmer Chinodya. Like his peers alluded to above, he is a rousing figure in the art of writing.
Stella Rambisai Chiweshe: Musician
Stella Chiweshe is undoubtedly Zimbabwe’s Queen of mbira and one of the country’s foremost cultural export. Accompanying her swooping vocals on mbira, Stella Chiweshe has taken the traditional Zimbabwean Shona music to the international stage. Born on the 8th July in 1946 in Mujumi Village in Mhondoro, Stella was taught to play the mbira by her mother’s uncle in the 1960s at a time when it was forbidden for a woman to play the instrument. Her recording career started with the release of the single “Kasahwa” which achieved gold status after clinching a recording deal with Teal records. In 1979 she formed her own “Earthquake Band” to promote her recordings which were being poorly marketed by the record company.
After Independence, she joined the National Dance Company of Zimbabwe as a Mbira soloist, actress and dancer. With this group, she performed in Mozambique, Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, India, China and Korea. In 1986 she introduced marimba for Mbira music thus pioneering in this field combining mbira with marimba traditional instruments and she took the combination to the international stage. Her career spanning 40 includes being part of the 1987 Beat Apartheid Road Festival in Germany, while between 1992-93 she toured Greece, Turkey and throughout Europe. In 1994 she played solo in front of more than 10,000 people at the Womad Festival in North America. In 1998 she was part of the Global Divas” tour in the United States of America. In 1999 she featured in a collaboration project with the Dimensions Dance Theatre in Oakland (USA) as well as performing at the World Music Festival (Hungary), Kalaka Festival (Slovenia). In 2006 she had Solo concerts in England, Italy, Germany and participated at the WOMAD festival in Caceres/Spain.
Among a host of other Awards, Mbuya Stella Chiweshe won the 1993 Billboard Music Award for the Adult/Alternative/World Music Album of the Year for “Kumusha”. She was awarded the National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) in 2006 for being the most outstanding female artist in Zimbabwe. In 2020 she was awarded the NAMA Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her contribution to the Zimbabwean music sector and her innovativeness that has won her music wide acclaim. Mbuya Stella Chiweshe is therefore a true legend of the Zimbabwe Cultural and Creative Sector carrying the tag of being the brand ambassador of the Zimbabwean culture recognising her hard work in spreading the Zimbabwean culture across the globe-spanning over 4 decades.
Stephen Chigorimbo: Director
Born in 1951, Stephen Chigorimbo began film making in 1974 after landing a part alongside Christopher Lee in the movie Dracula. He quickly found himself behind the camera and rose through the ranks while undergoing professional training as an actor, assistant director and coordinator in the film industry. A renowned scriptwriter and director, Stephen has produced over 100 documentaries, feature films and television programmes. As a writer and film director, he rose to fame with a popular Zimbabwean soap opera Studio 263 in which he effectively played the role of John Huni. In recognition of his sterling work in the cultural and creative industries, he was once appointed to serve on the Board of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe. A founder member of Sithengi, he also served at FEPACI as Regional Secretary from 2006 to 2013.
Locally, Stephen is extremely famous for featuring in Zimbabwe’s groundbreaking and first-ever television soap opera, Studio 263 that premiered in September 2002 and became very well-liked by the country’s populace. Also, he is celebrated by many people as an icon, a director, scriptwriter and actor par-excellence not only in the Zimbabwean film industry but regionally, continentally and internationally as well.
Stephen Chigorimbo was one of the assistant directors for a movie called “Cry Freedom” which featured international actors such as Denzel Washington. Featuring in a movie called “Odium” in 2014 which was directed by ex-mate at Studio 263 Ben Mahaka who played the role of Tom Mbambo was another milestone in his continuing illustrious career in the film industry. Stephen also featured in two prominent movies – “King Solomon’s Mines” directed by actress Sharon Stone and the “Forbidden Fruit” in 2013.
His phenomenal rise to fame in the local movie industry happened when he featured in Studio 263 as John Huni, a central figure in the movie who influenced the flow of every episode. It was in this production where he worked with the likes of Anne Nhira and Tatenda Mavetera who later became influential figures in the local film industry. Studio 263 was a launchpad for most actors’ careers, yet Chigorimbo was marking a third decade in the arts industry when he joined the soap.
The film industry in Zimbabwe owes its growth and development to iconic gurus in the mould of Stephen Chigorimbo. Many practitioners today draw inspiration from his outstanding and groundbreaking works in the film sector.
Susan Chenjerai: Actress
Belonging to that golden generation of theatre practitioners who practised what was then known as sketches (skits) that usually spiced musical performances, Susan Chenjerai was, before abandoning the arts arena an actor and musician par excellence. She is well known for portraying the famous “Mai Rwizi” character that entertained people through music and acting in the drama series Mhuri yaVaMukadota. The character Mai Rwizi in the Mukadota comedy series was very popular for family viewing even to this day. The comedy series remains classic even today. A veteran of the showbiz sphere from the early 1950s, Susan Chenjerai during her heydays exhibited that rare talent in both music and acting (drama).
She joined Safirio Madzikatire aka Mukadota‘s band Safe Brothers in 1969. Before joining the Safe Brothers she was part of the Bantu Actors in 1951 and with Marandellas Bush Babies in 1958. She also worked with big names such as the Wagon Wheels, a band where she met Oliver Mtukudzi before working with Mukadota. From the early 1950s up until she retired from the acting/music scene she was at the peak of her trade, particularly acting. The character Mai Rwizi left an everlasting mark in the minds of drama/theatre consumers around the nation. With the aplomb of a veteran that she was during her acting and music career, Susan Chenjerai portrayed the character Mai Rwizi who was Mukadota’s wife with exceptional finesse. The character Mai Rwizi was portrayed in Mhuri yekwaMataka and later, Mhuri yaVaMukadota, two drama productions that were extremely popular with audiences and are proving to be immortal even to this day.
Since the time she retired from the arts, Susan is revered in the arts sector as one of the first female actresses to foray into the music jungle where she worked with big names such as the Wagon Wheels, a band where she met superstar Oliver “Tuku” Mtukudzi before working with the late comedian Safirio Madzikatire as earlier alluded to above. The fact that she worked with late legends like Dr Oliver Mtukudzi and Safirio Madzikatire speaks volumes about the aesthetic that she is endowed with. By venturing into the male-dominated musical/acting sphere then, replete with patriarchic leanings, she displayed utter resolve and determination to pursue her passion in music and later acting whatever consequences coming from society. During her active years in the performing arts genre, women were highly discouraged to venture into music let alone acting. The arts, music and acting, in particular, were generically regarded as areas for people of loose morals, women in particular. She rode the storm and in the process paved the way for other women artists who are emulating her in the highly competitive music and acting arena.
Her role in arts development was recognized through the NAMA award that was bestowed on her, a lifetime achievement in the art of acting in particular. The development of music and acting in Zimbabwe can never be narrated without mentioning Susan Chenjerai aka Mai Rwizi. That revered character Mai Rwizi remains even today highly educational and informative in-so-far-as it relates to the role of the female folk in a family set-up, a black family in particular.
Susan Hains: Theatre
Susan Hains grew up in Harare where in her youth she studied dance and acting. She went on to study acting at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London and then worked in the industry in the United Kingdom.
She pursued interest and skill working in film and TV as a Make-up Artist and on Continuity. She continued to work in these roles in the Zimbabwean film industry. More importantly, she dedicated a larger portion of her life, from the mid-1970s to the present day, supporting and coaching young acting talent in Zimbabwe.
Her support grew to include the support and coaching of scriptwriters and directors. In her role as Chairperson of the National Theatre Organization of Zimbabwe, she was able to extend this work to embrace and include all Zimbabweans. In this role, she facilitated the contribution from a wide range of artists and experts to develop and decolonize Zimbabwean Theatre making it more inclusive.
Susan was instrumental in the creation of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe Act which saw the establishment of the NACZ from the ashes of the National Arts Foundation. The arts Council Act mandated the new body to foster, develop and improve the knowledge, understanding and practice of the arts in Zimbabwe.
She assisted many artists to work in this field to establish a strong and diverse voice that represents the Zimbabwean Society. Her influence and support can be found somewhere at the base and foundation of many of Zimbabwe’s successful, actors, writers, and directors.
She has had a life-long commitment to the Arts and her role includes nurturing theatre producers, directors and administrators who have become the backbone of the industry in Zimbabwe today.
Sylvester Mubayi: Visual Artist
Belonging to the internationally acclaimed class of the first generation stone sculptors, Sylvester Mubayi was born in 1942. He joined the Tengenenge Sculpture Community in 1967 as one of its first members and later worked at the Workshop School founded by Frank McEwen in Vukutu. He has also served as an artist in residence at the Chapungu Sculpture Park. Mubayi currently lives and works in Chitungwiza; his sculptures are inspired by stories of spirits and the supernatural. The National Gallery of Zimbabwe held a retrospective of his life’s work in August 2008 to much acclaim.
Sylvester Mubayi is a venerated old man, one of the first generation of Zimbabwean stone sculptors to achieve international exposure and acclaim. Like most first-generation stone sculptors of his time, their works were/are heavily influenced by highly cherished values and beliefs, and as an elder, he teaches and advises the younger members of his community through metaphor and storytelling – and his sculptures always tell a story as well.
Sylvester is one of the last surviving links to the early days of modern Zimbabwean stone sculpting. His ability to pay attention to detail echoes in all his artworks resulting in him being singled out as one of the finest artists to emerge in Zimbabwe in terms of stone sculpting. Way back in 1969, he scooped the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Award subsequently bagging other accolades and recognitions from the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. The period 1967 up to 1990 witnessed Sylvester blossoming into a national and international icon through his regular participation in high profile exhibitions, most of them hosted by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. The spectacular exhibitions that he participated in include Solo Exhibition, Somerset, UK, Custom and Legend: A Culture in Stone, Kew Gardens, London and Sculpture Contemporaine des Shona d’Afrique, Musée Rodin, Paris amongst others. Sylvester was also included as one of the top ten sculptors in the world by The Guardian in 1991.
The 1980s saw him being a major participant in most of the group and solo exhibitions hosted by the Chapungu Sculpture Park and Matombo Gallery, aesthetic spaces run by Roy Guthrie and the late Roy Cook respectively. He travelled a long artistic beginning at Tengenenge spanning decades. 2017 witnessed this revered artist making history by being the first artist from the older generation to attend and participate in the 57th Venice Biennale. His attendance and participation was facilitated by the National Gallery of Zimbabwe.
With his best works being flaunted in a number of world museums, galleries and public places and universities, including private collections, Sylvester symbolizes the development of stone sculpting and how this form of art that is uniquely Zimbabwean penetrated the world market. Together with others of his ilk (both living and dead), they are the epitome of Zimbabwean stone sculpting art and their footprints will forever remain embossed on the international art scene, particularly stone carving.
Tapfuma Gutsa: Visual Artist
Born in 1956, Tapfuma Gutsa is one of the visual artists who received formal training in sculpting. Domiciled in Harare, he studied sculpture with others like Cornelius Manguma at the Driefontein Mission School. Exceptional exploits during his study of sculpture saw him becoming the first black Zimbabwean recipient of a British Council award. The scholarship allowed him to study in London from 1982 until 1985, where he received a diploma in sculpture from the City and Guilds of London School of Art. In essence, unlike self-taught visual arts practitioners, he is a formally trained sculptor and this explains the uniqueness of aesthetic works.
Tapfuma Gutsa is unusual among Zimbabwean stone sculptors for the breadth of materials he uses in his artworks; his sculptures incorporate metal, paper, wood, and other foreign materials. His winning sculpture at the Nedlaw exhibition, 1987, comprised smouldering grass engulfing a wooden bird. Wood sculpting is also in his blood. Besides mentoring Dominic Benhura, he also played a pivotal role in nurturing other visual artists like Fabian Madamombe. At one point he once worked at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Harare holding a senior post but he is predominantly an artist rather than an arts administrator hence his decision to concentrate on creation rather than arts administration.
In 2007, he was one of the eleven international artists commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, to produce works for an exhibition titled ‘Uncomfortable Truths: The Shadow of Slave Trading on Contemporary Art”. This was a direct result of his outstanding artworks with an international appeal that led to his selection.
As exemplified by the numerous art exhibitions, workshops and residence programmes that he has held and participated in, Tapfuma Gutsa is an internationally acclaimed visual artist. Examples inter alia include the following, Xayamaca Workshop Crystal Springs, Jamaica, and Contemporary Stone Sculpture from Zimbabwe. Others are Yorkshire Sculpture Park UK, Artist’s Residency at Delfina Studios London, England and Contemporary African Art, Studio Museum, Harlem New York City, USA. Also, he participated in regional programmes like Ujamaa Art Workshop Exhibition and the Center for Brazilian Studies Maputo, Mozambique. Such programmes cover national ones too like Pachipamwe/ZIM-Sculpture Workshop Shurugwi, Zimbabwe and the President’s Award of Honor, Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition amongst others.
Tapfuma Gutsa’s contribution to the development of the visual arts sector in Zimbabwe is being felt far and wide. He has a passion for creating and enjoying harmony between nature and visual art creations. Also, he cherishes unearthing creativity from marginalized and usually remote communities of Zimbabwe. Gutsa continues to play a critical role in the development and growth of the visual arts sector, particularly through his zeal in imparting valuable knowledge and skills to young and upcoming visual artists. Dominic Benhura and others remain living examples of products of his mentorship and coaching initiatives.
Thomas Mapfumo: Musician
Since joining his first band, the Zutu Brothers, as a singer at the age of 16 Thomas Tafienyika Mapfumo has grown to become one of Zimbabwe’s most popular musicians famed for Chimurenga Music a sub-genre of traditional protest music that he created and popularized.
Born in 1945 in Marondera Thomas created his first band, the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band 1972 and introduced the innovation of adapting traditional Shona music to modern rock instrumentation. Working with guitarist Joshua Dube he began to transcribe the sounds of the chief instrument of traditional Shona music, the mbira to the electric guitar and began singing primarily in the Shona language.
The Rhodesian regime took his drawing on the native musical tradition and singing in his native language as a political statement. His lyrics became overtly political, supporting the revolution that was developing in the rural areas. His songs openly called for the violent overthrow of the government, with lyrics like “Mothers, send your sons to the war” and “Hokoyo!”, which means “Watch out!” The government banned the record from the state-controlled radio and threw him into a prison camp without charges in 1979. Large demonstrations in protest of his arrest and an inability to trump up charges against him forced the government to release him after three months.
At independence, Mapfumo performed at the celebratory concert which also featured Bob Marley and went on to release a string of songs celebrating the country’s independence. Thomas transformed his revolutionary music to social and political commentary on post-independence Zimbabwe. His 1989 Album Corruption was in response to the Willowvale Motor Industries scandal the biggest post-independence scandal which claimed the scalps of some cabinet ministers.
Having settled in Oregon in the United States of America, Thomas Mapfumo has continued to tour internationally and occasionally Zimbabwe his country of birth where he performs in front of sell-out crowds. His music continues to provide commentary about the situation in Zimbabwe. Thomas is a true living legend of Zimbabwean music with over 30 albums and numerous singles to his name released after independence. His chimurenga style of music influenced other Zimbabwean musicians, including the Bhundu Boys, Stella Chiweshe, Jonah Sithole, Pio Farai Macheka and many others. He has mentored and taught many young musicians and has taken and popularized.
Tsitsi Dangarembga: Film Producer/Writer
A pioneering female artist in the area of filmmaking, playwriting and authoring novels, Tsitsi Dangarembga was born in 1959 in Mutoko. Her debut novel, Nervous Conditions (1988), which was the first to be published in English by a Black woman from Zimbabwe, was named by the BBC in 2018 as one of the top 100 books that have shaped the world. In 2020, her novel This Mournable Body was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
In 1989, Dangarembga went to Germany to study film production inclusive of directing at the German Film and Television Academy Berlin. She produced several films while in Berlin, including a documentary aired on German television. In 1992, she founded Nyerai Films, a production company based in Harare. She wrote the story for the 1993 film Neria, which became the highest-grossing film in Zimbabwean history. Her 1996 film Everyone’s Child, the first feature film directed by a black Zimbabwean woman, was shown internationally, including at the Dublin International Film Festival.
In 2002, she founded the International Images Film Festival. Her 2005 film Kare Kare Zvako won the Short Film Award and Golden Dhow at the Zanzibar International Film Festival, and the African Short Film Award at the Milan Film Festival. Her 2006 film Peretera Maneta received the UNESCO Children’s and Human Rights Award and won the Zanzibar International Film Festival. She is the executive director of the organization Women Filmmakers of Zimbabwe and the founding director of the Women’s Film Festival Trust. Over the years Tsitsi produced more than 20 films inclusive of the following productions, High Hopes, At the Water, Peretera Maneta, I Want a Wedding Dress amongst many others.
While studying Psychology at the University of Zimbabwe, she joined the university drama club and wrote and directed several of the plays the group performed. She also became involved with the theatre group Zambuko, during which she participated in the production of two plays, Katshaa and Mavambo.
Tsitsi remains inspirational to many filmmakers, particularly of the womenfolk. She ventured into filmmaking when the industry was overly dominated by men. Her experience in racial discrimination and white supremacy that she experienced in the United Kingdom shaped her determination in breaking male domination in the art of film making. Internationally and locally, the Zimbabwean literary arts can never be navigated without encountering the name Tsitsi Dangarembga. Her literary works remain iconic and very influential to many young female writers. She ably demonstrates her prowess as a novelist as well as a playwright is evidenced by the following works, She No Longer Weeps, Lost of the Soil, all plays of immense reputation amongst others and iconic novels like Nervous Conditions and The Mournable Body, just as examples.
Zexie Manatsa: Singer/songwriter
Zimbabwean music legend, singer, songwriter, and bass player. He is known for his several hits released while fronting the Green Arrows. Zexie was born on 1 January 1944. And he launched his musical career in 1959 in Mhangura, Zimbabwe, at the age of 17 with his young brothers performing covers as Mambo Jazz Band.
He formed the Green Arrows Band in 1968 after relocating to Bulawayo, for which he provided lead vocals and played bass and they played cover versions of popular songs. In 1972, the Green Arrows began writing their songs to mass appeal. South African saxophonist West Nkosi, who was also a consultant for Gallo Records, discovered the band and became their producer in the 70s. The resulting album, “Chipo Chiroorwa”, sold so well and the band moved to the capital city of Harare.
Zex released many tracks which have proved to be all-time hits such as “Bambo Mwakwatila”, “Vaparidzi Vawanda”, “Mwana Waenda”, “Chechule Anavala Bottom”, and “Chimwamuna Chamimba”. Their track “Musango Mune Hangaiwa” stayed at number one in Zimbabwe’s pop charts for a staggering 17 weeks
In 1979, Manatsa made history when he got married to his long-time partner, Stella where he chose Rufaro Stadium as the venue for the wedding, and fans would pay $1 each to witness the ceremony. On August 25, 1979, Rufaro Stadium was full to the brim with excited fans who had come to witness the amazing “Wedding of the Year”.
Manatsa’s low, raspy lead vocals and bass playing defined the group’s sound, while his brother Stanley played the lead guitar. Manatsa remained popular in the post-independence era, producing hits such as Chivaraidze and the swooning Tii Hobvu. Zexie is with no doubt the father of pre-and post-independence Zimbabwean music as he was instrumental in playing traditional music as evidenced by his hits such as Madzangara Dzimu, Nyoka Yendara, Mudzimu Ndiringe, and Tsuro, songs which had pro-liberation innuendos. Many guerillas had used his house as a base and he had become a marked man by the Smith regime for singing pro-liberation songs.
Zex inspired many musicians of his era such as Oliver Mtukudzi (Late), James Chimombe (Late), Lovemore Majaivana, Tinei Chikupo, Leonard Dembo (Late), Thomas Mapfumo, and Simon Chimbetu (Late). While working in Bulawayo in the 1960s, Zexie encouraged the inclusion of musical skills at Jairos Jiri Centre and through his efforts, the first Jairos Jiri Band known as the Sunrise Kwela Kings was formed. Zex thus played a key role in giving guidance and support for success to many top Zimbabwe.
BACKGROUND: The National Arts Council in November 2020 Announced the postponement of the 20th National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) due to the devastating impact of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) on creativity in the country. The NACZ Director Mr Nicholas Moyo at a press conference announced that the holding of the competitive NAMA under the circumstances would have jeopardized the credibility of the entire processes associated with the Awards.
Instead, the Director announced that the NACZ would be holding a special celebratory NAMA dubbed “#NAMA legend @40” which would honour 40 legends to put a cap on the country’s 40th Independence anniversary and Celebrate 35 years of the existence of the NACZ. The event originally penned for 27 February 2021 was postponed to 27 March 2021 after government announced stringent lockdown conditions in the beginning of January 2021. The month-long lockdown affected the services of critical materials and input suppliers who had to work with limited staff numbers and reduced working hours which impacted on their ability to fulfil tasks within the expected time frames hence the decision to postpone. In addition, the event which initially was going to be a mix between virtual and live event presentation had to take a new dimension as a 100% virtual show following the introduction of stringent controls on gatherings.
With the legends Awards the NACZ intends to honour individuals who have dedicated their lives to the development of their art through their work and assisting others in the sector. The legends are people who are well regarded in their sector who helped define our lives as Zimbabweans with their artworks over a long period. The awards given to the legends in a sense represent government’s recognition of their talents and achievements which are in line with promoting the national interest, values and aspirations. #NAMA legends@40: Celebrating Our Legacy, Our Pride.