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#NAMALegends @40| The Selection Process Explained & The Full Honorees List Part 1

The 2021 edition of the National Arts Merit Awards (NAMAs) was aired on Saturday night.

The 2021 edition of the National Arts Merit Awards (NAMAs) was aired on Saturday night. The theme for this year’s edition of awards #NAMALEGENDS @40-Our Legacy Our Pride was aimed at celebrating the people who have shaped the cultural and creative industries over the past 40 years.

The event was hosted by songstress Ammara Brown and supported by multi-talented artist ProBeatz and comedian Mafotty.

Among the forty honoured were Aaron Chiundura Moyo, Albert Nyathi, Alick Macheso, Barbara Makhalisa-Nkala, Ben Mahaka, Chirikure Chirikure, Cont Mhlanga, Daves Guzha, Jasen Mphepo, Jesesi Mungoshi, Joe Njagu, Thomas Mapfumo and Tsitsi Dangarembga.

The Legends Selection Process Explained

Stage 1-Defining a legend.

In kickstarting the selection of the legends NACZ sought to come up with a comprehensive guide of who is a legend. The following criteria were spelt out:

  • Famous-This is based on the dictionary definition of a legend as someone who is well known in a particular sector.
  • Positive contribution- it was noted that a legend also had to be a person of repute who has contributed beyond measure in the development and promotion of arts and culture in this country in the practice of their chosen field.
  • Alive-The legends had to be alive practising or retired from their craft.
  • Mentorship-A legend is someone who had gone beyond just doing their art by themselves but had also aided the development of other practitioners in their sphere.

Stage two-Selection of legends by stakeholders

NACZ then invited contributions from representatives of registered Arts Organisations and captains of the CCI sector in Zimbabwe, to make selections of people they considered legends in their sector based on the criteria set above. The names received from these representatives were then tallied, with those that accumulated the highest number of votes being selected and categorized according to their sectors. A total of 99 names managed to get enough votes to be shortlisted for the Award.

Stage three-Setting up of Jury

The names were then taken to a jury which sieved through the suggested list of practitioners. The juries were categorised based on the list of suggested names and the sectors they represented. The juries engaged in constructive debates which evaluated the different contributions of each individual to the sector. The heated debates which were based on fact saw the jury trimming the names of the legends and the final list was presented to the NACZ.

Stage Four Verification and Corroboration

An adjudication board was set up by NACZ which then reviewed the process by comparing the final list from the Jury and the votes tally from the presentations from the sector players. After verifying and corroborating the list, the adjudication board then Presented the list to NACZ Management for approval.

Stage Five-Approval.

NACZ Management then went through the presented list and approved it. Management then informed the Minister of Youth Sport Arts and Recreation Dr Kirsty Coventry about the selection to allow the conferment of the #NAMA legends@40 Awards to the stated recipients.  The NACZ is confident that this rigorous system allowed it to come up with a truly representative list of legendary contributors to the CCI sector in Zimbabwe over the past 40 years.

The Honourees

Aaron Chiundura Moyo: Writer

Aaron Chiundura Moyo is a multi-talented individual who is an accomplished novelist, playwright, poet, screenwriter, short story writer, concept developer, actor, director, radio producer, presenter and researcher.

From 1971 to 1979 Aaron worked as a presenter at Radio Rhodesia African Service and he produced several radio programmes including Mabhuku neVanyori which featured 31 short stories and Mabvumira Enhetembo, a poetry programme that featured 13 poems that were aired and discussed.

In 1981 he began close collaborations with the reorganise Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation working for Radio 2 as a Freelance Producer. During that period, he wrote several radio dramas and soaps which ran for more than 3 years including the iconic Handei Kumombe, Chinaku Chinobva Muzevezeve, Ave Mateangungu Mutinya Nguo Dzehuswa and Toita Madiro.

In 1987 Chiundura Moyo ventured into Television where he wrote and acted in many drama series and films such as Chiwoko Muhomwe, Ziva Kwavakabva, Madhunamutuna, Masimba, Zeve Zeve, Chihwerure/Mafuro Manyoro. In the different series, Aaron comfortably executed different production roles including, Writer, actor, floor Manager, Production Assistant, Director, Producer and Editor.

In television, Chiundura Moyo proved his mettle when he created and wrote Studio 263 Zimbabwe’s First Television soapie. He then wrote produced and directed Tiri Parwendo which ran for 7 years and was the first pre-colonial epic drama series ever produced in the country.

In literature, the legendary writer has penned over 20 novels and plays including Uchandifungawo, Ziva Kwavakabva, Chenga Ose, Kereke Inofa, The Other Side of the River and Other Short Stories and Chabvondoka among others working with many publishing companies for his works including Mambo Press, Longman Zimbabwe, Books for Africa, Mecury of Press, Priority Projects, ZPHouse, Book Love, Lion Press and Literature Bureau.

The veteran writer has won various broadcasting and arts Awards during his career including:

P.E.N Award- for books Uchandifundifungawo and Ziva Kwawakabva, A.M.N-Best Arts Presenter of the year (radio), A.M.E- Radio Coverage of several arts disciplines, National Journalistic and Media awards (Best Radio Producer), 1st Prize Literature in Shona for Chemera Mudundundu, Zimbabwe’s 75 Best Books of 20th Century for Ziva Kwawakabva, 1st Prize Best Fiction Poetry Drama for Pane Nyaya and the National Arts Merit Awards- Silver Jubilee Award, University of Zimbabwe Performing Arts Merit Awards- Lifetime achievement.

Adam Madebe: Visual Arts

Adam Madebe was born in Bulawayo in 1954 and trained at Mzilikazi Arts and Craft Centre where he began sculpting figurines in clay. Around 1970, metal became his chosen medium to realise his desire to make larger works. Madebe began sculpting in metal in 1982, following a workshop sponsored by Oxyco. Frustrated by the limitations of scale available to him in ceramic sculpture.

Adam consequently developed and pioneered a method to create life and larger than lifesize works, welding metal over wet clay, later evacuated, to leave a hollow figureand has earned many awards for his works. He is credited as one of Zimbabwe’s most known sculptors working in metal. He subsequently became an art instructor at Mzilikazi Art & Craft Centre, teaching ceramics from 1974 through to 1992.

Madebe’s sculptures, which are often life-size or larger, are part of prestigious collections across the world with some of his works such as his “Fallen Warrior” shown at the British Museum, still used as case studies for fine art students in Zimbabwe today.He has received commissions for public sculptures in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Botswana including a brass sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi unveiled in Rustenburg in 2015.

Madebe is known primarily for his figurative work, but has also achieved great acclaim for his semi-figurative and conceptual work such as ‘Hot Seat’ in 1989. Madebe participated in the 1989 Pachipamwe II Workshop held at Cyrene Mission outside Bulawayo alongside other successful artists such as Joram Mariga, Bernard Matemera, Bill Ainslie, Voti Thebe, Sokari Douglas Camp and David Koloane. He was then invited by the Triangle Arts Trust to attend their annual workshop in Pine Plains, New York State in 1990 and in 1995 attended an International Artists Workshop at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

Madebe won the 1st prize in the Tower Gardens Sculpture Competition in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe with ‘Looking to The Future’ in 1985 and his sculpture with ‘Jacket’ bagged the first prize at WeldArt 1987 at the National Art Gallery in Harare. He was also a recipient of the Award Of Merit at the Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition in 1988 with his piece ‘ Contemplation’. ‘Togetherness’ earned him the 2nd Prize at WeldArt at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in 1989. He also earned the “Award of Merit” at the Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition with the ‘Hot Seat’. He was also a recipient of the President’s Award of Honour at the 1994 Zimbabwe Heritage Exhibition.

In 2000 Adam was filmed in an educational programme for Channel 4, creating figurative work using the method described above. His famous sculpture of Kgosi Mogale stands at the entrance of the Kedar Country Hotel and he was also commissioned to make a sculpture of a Miner in Krugersdorp in 2005. Madebe has participated at a plethora of international exhibitions including Madebe has participated at the Art From The Frontline Glasgow Salford and Dublin (1990), Pauline Podbrey Gallery, London 1992 and 1993, Matabele Metal Aberdeen Art Gallery 1992 WeldArt Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery 1993, WeldArt Belfast City Gallery 1994 Johannesburg Biennale 1995, A Garden For Africa British Museum London 2005, Transitions SOAS London 2005, Terre Noire Musee Departmental Maurice Denis 2007 and Art Center Hugo Voeten in 2012.

Albert Nyathi: Poet

Albert Nyathi is a poet, musician, writer, actor, and philanthropist. Nyathi mastered traditional praise poetry at school. Born on 15 November 1962 at Kafusi in Gwanda District in Matabeleland South. Nyathi started to write his plays and poems at a tender age, inspired by the national freedom struggle. Albert Nyathi studied for a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Zimbabwe where, as a student in the 1980s, he became very influential within the student union and often spoke at rallies. Later, he gave up his career in government service as a senior member of the National Arts Council to concentrate on performance poetry and the development of youth training programmes in Harare.

After experiments in community theatre and performing arts, including teaching song and dance to township youths, in 1990, he started fusing his poetry with music to reach a wider audience and became particularly famous for the poem and song “Senzeni Na?”, which he composed following the assassination of Chris Hani responding to treachery and betrayal. Nyathi started praise poetry as a very young boy where he used to sing praise poetry while herding cattle in rural Matabeleland South. Over the years he managed to expand his audience to include other countries in and outside the African continent. In 1990 Albert started fusing poetry and song.

He formed his group Imbongi in 1995 and his debut album Kuze Kube Nini (For How Long?) was recorded in 1994. Many of the songs on the album are still big hits. In 1997, he performed for Nelson Mandela celebrating his visit to Zimbabwe. In 1999, he performed at the funeral of former Vice President and one of the pioneers of nationalism Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo commonly known as Father Zimbabwe.

Nyathi has released four Albums to date including Welcome to Zimbabwe (Land of Contradictions) in 2000 and My Daughter in 2008. Nyathi has also been involved in the development of various arts talent when in 2017 he launched The Albert Nyathi Talent Search (Ants), aimed at, primary and secondary school-going artists. The programme aimed at giving a platform to learners to nurture and develop their talent.

Nyathi has performed in South Africa saying praises about the Great King of the Ndebele and founder of the Mthwakazi Kingdom, Mzilikazi. The issues he addresses in his poetry are those that affect people’s everyday lives. Nyathi performs in both English and Ndebele using straightforward colloquial language, easily accessible speech rhythms, and simple overt imagery. Nyathi reaches out to and embraces everyone with his concerns which reflect their own. His prose combines the Poet and audience into one living being reassured by a commonality in a complex world where tradition and modernity, religion and politics, poverty and wealth, hunger, unemployment and death jostle consciously at the forefront of people’s, often difficult, lives.

As an artist, Albert Nyathi is a legend who has contributed immensely to the growth of the music and poetry culture in Zimbabwe. He won the Zimbabwe National Poetry Award in 1995 and his collections, Echoes from the Kraal and Echoes from Zimbabwe, were published in 2001 and 2010. He has toured several countries including Botswana, Zambia, United States, Russia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and South Africa.

Alick Macheso: Musician

Regarded as the “King of Sungura Music”, extraordinarily talented in terms of bass guitar playing, dancing and vocals, Alick Macheso burst onto the music scene in 1998, with his debut album Magariro, fronting the band Orchestra Mberi Kwazvo. Born in 1968, Alick can play all other guitars but he prefers bass. Arguably, Alick Macheso belongs to the elite class of Sungura musicians of all time. What makes Alick so outstanding is that he is an exceptional guitarist, lyricist and dancer all rolled into one who rose to prominence in the early 1990s. His days at Khiama Boys enabled Nicholas Zacharia to mentor him and other musicians like the late System Tazvida.

After independence, Macheso came to Harare in 1983 where he joined the Shepherd Chinyani-led Vhuka Boys. He was earlier taught how to play the lead and bass guitars by Rogers Chimusoro and Chinyani respectively. Macheso, whilst touring with the band later met Nicholas Zakaria. Since the Vhuka band had no equipment, Macheso was forced to abandon it and later joined Zakaria who was staying in Epworth. The latter had formed the Khiama Boys earlier. When he temporarily hanged the mic, to concentrate on driving, Macheso then decided to form the Orchestra Mberikwazvo with Zakaria Zakaria, Nicholas’ younger brother.

With the help of the Bhundu Boys, Macheso went on to release popular albums such as ‘Simbaradzo’, ‘Zvakanaka Zvakadaro’ and ‘Zvido Zvenyu Kunyanya’. Macheso rose to fame with the album Magariro that had several hits including Pakutema Munda, Baba naMai among many others. Vakiridzo and then another Simbaradzo in 2000. Zvakanaka Zvakadaro came in 2001, Zvido Zvenyu Kunyanya in 2003 and was followed by Vapupuri Pupurai some two years later. Ndezvashe was recorded in South Africa after Macheso’s contract with Gramma Records expired.

Alick Macheso was appointed Red Cross Zimbabwe Ambassador in 2013 after the society noticed his efforts to improve the welfare of the vulnerable and sick through his annual Chitungwiza General Hospital Charity show. He has won several National Arts Merit Awards and Zimbabwe Music Awards. These include; Best Song of the Year – Madhawu (2003), Best Live Performer (ZIMA) (2004 and 2005), Best Sungura Artiste (ZIMA) with 11 albums under his belt.

Macheso’s influence in Sungura music is pervasive. His style is influencing many upcoming Sungura musicians. His exceptional bass guitar playing skills earned him the nickname Extrabasso. The man has become so influential that his brand of music now stands as a yardstick amongst other musicians of his ilk. Taking a leaf from his mentor Nicholas Zacharia, Alick Macheso is mentoring other young musicians most of whom he uses as curtain-raisers at his numerous shows. Indeed, the title “King of Sungura” aptly sums his musical achievements in Sungura circles hitherto.

Barbara Makhalisa (Nkala): Writer

Barbara Makhalisa is one of the earliest female writers published in Zimbabwe. Also known as Barbara Nkala (her married name), she is the author of several books written in Ndebele as well as school textbooks. An author of fiction and non-fiction books published in both Ndebele and English languages, Barbara is a trained educator having studied at Gweru Teachers’ College, majoring in English. She taught at various secondary schools in the country before joining Longman Zimbabwe in 1981, where she rose to the position of commissioning editor for humanities subjects.

In 1991, she left Longman and worked in her family company for five years before being invited to head the International Bible Society-Zimbabwe (IBS Zimbabwe) as National Director where she was in charge of the Chichewa Bible translation project in Malawi. She coordinated the translation and publishing of the new IBS Shona and Ndebele Bibles, as well as a Chichewa New Testament. She left IBS Zimbabwe and founded Radiant Publishing; whose vision is to publish for transformation.

Barbara’s writing career began when she won a national competition for her first book, Qilindini, a detective thriller written in Ndebele and published at a time when she was only the second female writer in Ndebele. Her second book, Umendo is considered a classic for its portrayal of the marriage institution. Her other books include Umhlaba lo! Impilo yinkinga, The Underdog and Other Stories, Different Values and Eva’s Song: A Collection of Short Stories.

An experienced editor and Ndebele translator Barbara has scaled up her contribution to the development of literature in Zimbabwe through her Barbara Clara Makhalisa Nkala (BCMN) Literary Trust that is working on promoting the advancement and publishing of Ndebele literature, a reading culture and reading resource centres through funding and training.

In 2015 she received an Honorary Degree from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST). Barbara has excelled in writing as a writer and also as an editor at one of the country’s top publishing house.

Her work at mentoring and promoting the development of other writers for the future makes her a living legend, whose dedication to her craft is second to none.

Barnabas Chadamoyo: Dancer

A traditional dancer and drummer of immense repute and endowed with vast experience; Barnabas Chadamoyo is an artist who has seen it all in the dance fraternity, from the Rhodesian era dating back to the late 60s and early 70s when arguably he was very influential in the development of dance as an artistic genre. Indeed, he was influential in the growth and development of this type of art in the country during the colonial era. As a member of SATA (Salisbury African Tradition dance Association) which became HATA after independence, Barnabas was pivotal in ensuring the practice of the traditional dance repertoire was/is maintained as part of the nation’s cultural heritage, even to this day. HATA (Harare African Traditional dance Association) morphed into ZNTDA with him being actively involved in the process.

Hailing from Mashonaland East Province Uzumba specifically, the home of Mbende-Jerusarema Dance, he spent much of his time in Harare performing for Murehwa Number 1 Jerusarema Club as a dancer and also a drummer. The dance was proclaimed by UNESCO as a masterpiece for intangible cultural heritage. He was one of the semi-professional artists who inspired many other Mbende-Jerusarema dancers and cultural dance practitioners including the late Douglas Vambe and many groups in and outside Mashonaland East Province and Harare. In the mid-90s working and residing in Harare, he was retired from his duties and became a pensioner, and thereafter decided to go home to Murehwa where he then pursued his passion for dance.

Barnabas then created the group Shingirirayi Jerusarema which he trained and pushed to participate in provincial and national functions which included NeShamwari Traditional Dance Festival, Greater Harare Arts Festival, Jacaranda Arts Festival and Mbende-Jerusarema Festival just to mention but a few. Today, at above 85 years, he still trains dance and drumming for dances like Mbende-Jerusarema, Pfonda, Jiti, Chidhange, Kadhora and Chinyamusasure amongst others. He has been a trainer of trainers in traditional dance since then and an artist who also produces traditional goods (crafts) and costumes.

Dance has been his passion and his art for so many years, contributing to its growth and development. He continues to nurture dance practitioners and in the process contributing to the preservation of Zimbabwe’s culture and heritage for posterity as expressed through dance. Barnabas Chadamoyo remains an iconic figure, particularly in the practice of the MasterPiece, Mbende-Jerusarema Dance.

Ben Mahaka: Actor/Director

Ben Mahaka was born in 1968 in Chipinge and shot to fame playing the role of shady businessman cum playboy Tom Mbambo in Zimbabwe’s first-ever soapie Studio 263 that Premiered in 2002.

Mahaka featured in Yellow Card Movie a 2000 movie about a rising young soccer star who finds himself caught between the conflicts of school, peer pressure, his sport, his family, falling in love, and the consequences of a one-night stand. His big break however came with Studio263 a soapie about life in Harare which made history by becoming one of the few locally produced series to be aired on international television channels such as M-net. Mahaka appeared in over 600 and directed another 300 episodes of the soapie which ran until 2007 when it was pulled off the air by Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) due to contractual disputes with the producers.

Ben then had other directorial stints with other projects including Gringo the troublemaker and Battle of the Chefs. In 2011, Mahaka worked with a musician Hope Masike and directed the video for the song “Tioneiwo Shewe“. In September 2014, Mahaka worked with a musician cum comedian Kapfupi in a television commercial.

In 2018 Mahaka’s short film Ruvimbo’s Wedding won the National Arts and Merit Awards (NAMA) in the Outstanding Screen Production (Short Film) category. The Film was also a finalist at the Lake International PanAfrican Film Festival (LIPFF) in Kenya in 2017. Mahaka joined other Zimbabwean actors including the late Lazarus Boora, Charlene Mangweni, Stella January, Nothando Nobengula, Eunice Tava, Tinopona Katsande, and UK-based Abraham Kausa, in the movie Lord of Kush produced by Tendai Maduwa.

Mahaka recently created Gaza, a production set and made in Chipinge which explores topical issues that are familiar to local audiences, including child marriages and gender-based violence in urban and peri-urban settings. The production is shot in Gaza Township, in the town centre, and growth points around Chipinge.

Ben has contributed immensely to the development of Film in Zimbabwe as an actor, producer, and director. He has pioneered in taking filming to remote areas in Zimbabwe by establishing a creative centre in his home town Chipinge, training both cast and crew members to shoot the series Gaza one of the first to make it on National Television from outside Harare and Bulawayo using his native language ChiNdawu.

Bothwell Nyamhondera: Producer/Drummer/Sound Engineer

Bothwell Nyamhondera is a Zimbabwean music producer known for producing music for a plethora of Zimbabwean musicians during and after his tenure with Gramma Records.

Nyamhondera was born in 1959 in Mutare where he did his primary and secondary education and moved to Harare in 1978 upon completion of his studies. In Harare, he formed a group called Octave with the likes of Ernest Sando, Louis Mhlanga, Chris Chabuka, Eppias Paradza, and the late Alfred de Sousa. In 1980, he joined Shed Studios as a session drummer. In 1981 he became the studio’s engineer. He worked at Shed until 1982 when he joined Gramma Records where he worked for 22 years as their resident engineer and later became their chief producer.

During his career Nyamhondera also helped found and played the drums for the R.U.N.N. Family which was made up of siblings from the Muparutsa family, the best known of whom are the late Fortune and his brother, lead singer and bassist Peter Muparutsa that had several hits in the 1980s, whose songs combined mbira-inspired music with reggae and rhumba influences.

With Tanga Ernest Sango high-flying producer, Bothwell Nyamhondera went on to form the band Giraffe. The band recorded the hits, Mahobho and Vakomana Vekwedu among others. The band later disbanded and Tanga embarked on a solo career.

In 2004, Bothwell left Gramma Records to work as a freelance engineer/producer at different studios. He had a brief stint at Last Power Media from 2009 to 2011. In 2013 he joined Diamond Studios.

Nyamhondera album credits include stints as sound Engineer for “The Long Walk” (2007  ) and “Gwindingwi Rine Shumba” (1980) by Thomas Mapfumo. He worked as a mixing engineer for “Tsivo” (2004) by Oliver Mtukudzi and “Corruption” (1989) again with Thomas Mapfumo. He was a producer for many albums including “Jit” (1993), Best of the Four Brothers: Makorokoto (1992), and Mechanic Manyeruke and the Puritans (1988).

Nyamhondera is the man behind the success stories of many top musicians in the country, chief among them Alick Macheso, Madzibaba Nicholas Zakaria, Leonard Dembo, Simon Chimbetu, James Chimombe, and the late Tongai Moyo, among others whom he recorded with during his tenure at Gramma Records.

Chirikure Chirikure: Poet

Born in 1962 in Gutu, Chirikure Chirikure is a prolific poet, songwriter, and author. A graduate of the University of Zimbabwe and an Honorary Fellow of the University of Iowa, US, he belongs to a class of accomplished and resourceful Zimbabwean writing and performing artists. He worked with one of Zimbabwe’s leading publishing houses as an editor/publisher for 17 years, until 2002. He now runs a literary agency and also works as a performance poet, cultural consultant and translator. He has contributed some pieces in a Shona poetry anthology, Zviri Muchinokoro (2005, ZPH Publishers). He has written and translated a number of children’s stories and published some educational textbooks.

Over the years he has also been an occasional contributor to the print media and ran a radio programme for young Shona writers. Chirikure performs his poetry solo and/or with his Mbira music ensemble. Exhibiting resourcefulness, Chirikure ably mastered the art of fusing poetry with music, particularly Mbira music.  He has recorded an album of poetry and music, Napukeni (2002), with his colleagues, Dete Mbira Group. He has also written lyrics for a number of leading Zimbabwean musicians and he occasionally performs with some of them. Understanding the power of collaborations in artistic productions is one of his outstanding attributes.

Along the way, he amassed a number of accolades. All of Chirikure’s poetry books received first prizes in the annual Zimbabwe writer of the year awards. His first volume, Rukuvhute, also received an Honorable Mention in the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, in 1990. His other book, Hakurarwi – We Shall not Sleep, was selected as one of the 75 Best Zimbabwean Books of the 20th Century in a competition run by the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in 2004. In that competition the same book got a prize as one of the best five Shona publications of the 20th century. He never shies away from writing and performing in his mother language – ChiShona.

Chirikure has participated in several local and international festivals and symposia over the years. His passion for writing educational books contributes immensely to the learning process in the country particularly now when the educational trajectory fully embraces arts, heritage and culture education. Aussicht auf eigene Schatten (poetry in Shona and English, with German translations) (2011), Heidelberg, Germany: Verlag Das Wunderhorn aptly displays his sterling efforts in breaking the language barrier and offer poetry and writings in a variety of languages.

Chirikure remains an iconic figure in the arena of performing arts (poetry), songwriting and writing educational books. His works are very inspirational to upcoming poets and aspiring writers. He has over the years created a niche in the highly competitive sphere of the performing and literary arts as distinct aesthetic genres.

Cont Mhlanga: Writer/Director

Cont Mdladla Mhlanga is a playwright, actor and theatre director. His career in the cultural and creative industries began in 1982 when formed Amakhosi which started as a youth karate club but switched to professional theatre in 1988. The Amakhosi Performing Arts Workshop (APAW) produced and toured with theatre plays written and directed by Mhlanga. In 1995 Amakhosi established the country’s first privately-owned cultural centre located within the boundaries of the townships in Bulawayo.

Mhlanga has written more than 20 plays which include The Good PresidentThe End, Sinjalo, Children on Fire, Games and Bombs, Members only, Workshop Negative and Vikela. Cont has three books to his name including the play “Nansi leNdoda” a former A level set book and “Ngakade Ngisazi” a collection of short stories.

He adapted this theatre play Stitsha for television and it became a series featuring the late Beater Mangethe on ZBC TV. The TV drama was tension and struggle between Thuli played by Beater and her tough on-screen brother, Mopho. The narrative was hugely Zimbabwean showcasing compelling Zimbabwean stories by Zimbabweans.

Another of his plays Sinjalo explored everyday challenges in the life of two friends, Sakhamuzi (Ndebele) and Foromani. (Shona) a narrative that sought to teach the world that both Ndebele and Shona people of Zimbabwe could live together as friends with no enmity and prejudice.

Cont has contributed tremendously to the arts industry. He has used his literary and creative prowess to champion the human rights cause as well as articulating the socio-economic and political situation in Zimbabwe. Through Amakhosi he has helped to discover and mentor some of the country’s talented artists including Ba Shupi, Sandra Ndebele, Sarah Mpofu, Raisedon Baya and William Nyandoro.

Mhlanga an accomplished actor himself starred as Mtutureli Niekwu in an anti-apartheid movie A World Apart which was released in 1988. He also created and developed ‘Friday Live at Amakhosi’ a television show on ZBC where live music bands would perform and competitions such as Dreams to Fame also discovered young talent as they targetted up-and-coming artists.

His work in theatre and film made him the first recipient of a prize called the ArtVenture Freedom to Create Prize, awarded by a philanthropic organisation funded by a private investment group in Singapore. Cont is thus a true living legend who has contributed significantly to the development of the arts in the country as a writer, director, actor, mentor and administrator.

Watch out for part 2 of The 2021 #NAMALegends @40 Awards Honorees List.


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.

ImChris Charamba

Head Storyteller @ Enthuse Afrika | Progressive Writer | Content Creator | Critic of the Arts and Contemporary Culture | Idealist | Creative | Digital Strategist | Follow him on Twitter @ImChrisCharamba 

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