Before you sink into this piece, I urge you to keep the above words in mind as this article goes on a deep dive into the creative process of Nkosilesisa Kwanele Ncube. She is a writer in every sense of the word, having gone from what she remembers as selling ‘mediocre’ poetry at the tender age of seven to now being an author with her published work.
The range of her pen isn’t just limited to paper. She’ll proudly show you her screen work airing on DSTV’s Zambezi Magic. She is a producer keen to develop her skill in telling stories in a way she hopes to emulate her idol, Shonda Rhimes. She is part of the MultiChoice Talent Factory, which is developing young creatives through an immersion programme including both theory and hands-on experience in cinematography, editing, audio production and storytelling.
Such an experience is essentially being trained in a methodology of creativity to develop an all-round creative capable of the several facets involved in production work. When I asked her about the benefit of training a person in creating the way she went about it, she responded:
“I was raised by educators. So I will always be a sucker for education. I believe even though creative work is an art, it deserves order, and that’s what training does. It’s not just people throwing theories at you, it’s them teaching you discipline, teaching you communication and refining your art and thought process. Training refines and channels that which is innate.”
In Africa, gender imbalance and stereotyping in cinema have received critical attention over the recent past. “Re-Shaping Cultural Policies”, a 2018 Global Report by UNESCO’s states that women are under-represented in key creative roles and severely outnumbered in decision-making positions. Sexism permeates the industry with women assigned certain roles and responsibilities that perpetuate gender stereotypes and discrimination. Many women report of sexual harassment at the workspace, have less access to funding and face substantial gender pay gaps.
Diversity and gender-parity are crucial to the filmmaking process. Given that women compose half of the population and the inherent importance and relevance of women’s issues in global development, women directors would project female perspectives more strongly in film. I asked Nkosi about the representation of women in creative fields in southern Africa and Zimbabwe, especially with the girl child movement as the focal point of discussion, more plainly on if it has paid off to the satisfaction of women. I learnt that her creative feminist philosophy is seen through her work behind the scenes in bringing to life the Girls Aloud Podcast. The first season of the podcast which aired last year focused on examining the personal, professional and societal issues facing women at a political and socio-economic level.
“I think it has [paid it forward for me and my sisters in the creative economy]. I think the women before me stood so we could walk and we walk so the ones after us can run. The girl child movement existed so that we could exist in creative spaces. Our job, now having access to the spaces is to give accurate representations of women across different media, black African women in particular. Especially if we do a good job of dispelling misrepresentations of black women, the women that come after us won’t have to fight this battle. Theirs will be a different one.”
She’s a Drake fan, but she listens to Button Poetry like she’s paid to, as she’ll unashamedly put it. I suspect it’s that enjoyment of quality audio storytellers that drew her to scriptwriting in a bid to figure out how to make words dance on a page of the paper. So, I tried to be clever and asked her which of her published works and publicized content is her favourite, and she didn’t chew words.
“You can’t ask somebody which of their kids they love the most. A favourite may exist, but we never mention it. So I can’t really say. I will say, however, that each project has taught me something about myself and it has helped me better. I cringe at things that I wrote years back, but I know that I wouldn’t be the creative that I am today if I hadn’t worked on these,” she said.
Clearly, this wasn’t the answer I was looking for, hence I tried another tactic to figure out how much emotion she pours into her work and which emotions specifically drive her process. Innocently, I asked her that in the event that she had one last chance to express herself, what message would she choose to spend her dying pen stroke on?
“Live and let live,” she responded. “I think we are big on the living part, not so much on the letting live part. If I could only get people to remember one thing, it would be that. Life is too short to not do all the things you want to do. It’s even shorter when we spend time obsessing over how other people live theirs. To each is own, so let people live and love and believe and worship how they want to.”
This got me thinking about censorship on creativity in Zimbabwe and the arduous journey other creatives had to trek to blaze a trail for others to follow safely. In essence, the cultural benchmarks of the older generation have dictated the critical feedback on culture for such a long time it had stilled youth progress in the sector. Several creatives have since compromised their artistic integrity and creative vision to balance losses and expenses alongside cultural backlash from the audience.
Censorship, going hand in hand, with external judgement, is often what holds back the ambitious creative from breaking the glass ceiling on behalf of the culture. What’s interesting to note is that Nkosi views it differently.
“I would be more worried about my art not being judged. If it’s judged, then at least I know it got somebody to think about the content. That’s the entire point of art, I guess. To start a conversation. But yes, there are times when I have to censor myself for obvious reasons. I create for an audience, not for myself. So there are prejudices and biases always need to take a back seat when I start to create,” she told me.
This month, #enthuse, through our #SheCreatesMarch feature series, celebrates the work of thirty-one Zimbabwean women creatives, the contributions and achievements they have made throughout history, culture, and society. The idea is to elevate visibility for commercial projects and commissions. Discover the work of avant-garde creatives who embody the spirit of the month by uplifting and empowering women. Representing diverse backgrounds and disciplines, these women share one thing in common: their dedication to supporting women and sharing their stories through art and creativity. We are thrilled to share their work. And this month is about them. #ChooseToChallenge