I attended the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) last Saturday night in Harare. The occasion had its drama as the crowd chanted Tocky Vibes’ name as Suluman “Sulu” Chimbetu was receiving the award for outstanding musician of 2014.
The crowd was incredulous, of course.
But it happened and Sulu came on stage and had his ego seriously flayed by the unhappy crowd, which chanted Tocky Vibes’ name. Well, I will not surmise anything on the whole affair except to say: It happened. Somehow though, the awards night got me thinking.
The reason was the manner in which Leroy Gopal handled the master of ceremony gig alongside Zimbabwe’s current top MC Babongile Sikhonjwa and Patience Musa.
Up till that point, Sikhonjwa had been peerless in terms of wit, humour and charm. Pound for pound Leroy is just as good. But who is Gopal?
The answer to the question led me to reflect on the young man and others who are raising the flag worldwide in the creative sector.
Thinking about that has had the effect of palliating my wrath at the shambles that was the awards ceremony in terms of the whole set up. The lighting was terrible and the guys manning the public address system and the projector made it all look so amateurish.
The national anthem was really murdered . . . Still, Nama-winning comedian Clive Chigubu and the three of MCs redeemed the affair to a level of entertainment such as to help me retain my faith in the future of our showbiz.
For today let us cast our eyes far afield to gaze at some of our brightest lights that are on the world stage in show business.
Perhaps our young people will find inspiration to reach for the stars in the creative sector. The list is not exhaustive though.
NoViolet Bulawayo — The writer
Born Elizabeth Tshele in Tsholotsho 33 years ago, NoViolet Bulawayo is now a celebrated author the world over. She first found her stride with the short story Hitting Budapest, which garnered her critical acclaim after being published in the Boston Review in 2010.
Her first novel released in 2013 We Need New Names has turned her into a global literary giant.
It went on to be included in the 2013 Man Booker Prize shortlist. She became the first black woman and the first Zimbabwean to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
She won the Etisalat Prize for Literature and the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, among other accolades. Having attended Njube High school and Mzilikazi High School in Bulawayo, she went on for further education at Kalamazoo Valley Community College and earned bachelors and master’s degree at Texas’ A&M University-Commerce and Southern Methodist University respectively.
Further studies have attained her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Cornell University, New York, United States. She has been awarded a Truman Capote Fellowship.
Last year she came to launch her book at a widely successful event at the National Art Gallery in Bulawayo. She is walking in the path already carved by the late Yvonne Vera. She will possibly match or surpass the late writer in terms of achievement.
Oskido – The music producer
Oskido is the stage name. Oscar Bonginkosi Mdlongwa is the birth name of the famous Luveve-raised, South Africa-born music producer and entrepreneur and showbiz impresario.
Oskido is by now Zimbabwe’s biggest musical export. His influence and clout is largely felt in the South African and African music industry. He is behind the rise of Boom Shaka, Mafikizolo, Bongo Maffin, Thebe and Trompies.
Oskido is the Durban cultural ambassador and has many other awards as music producer. His self-effacing style sometimes obscures the shrewd hustler he is.
n reality, the likes of famous female DJ Zinhle owe their success to his vision and street smarts. Annually, Oskido makes the trek to Zimbabwe bringing along with him a host of his South African protégés.
These have included the gorgeous singer songwriter Berita Khumalo, another artiste who made the grade down South. Oskido is a giant in the showbiz sector without a doubt.
Tongayi Arnold Chirisa — The actor
Chirisa was born in Zimbabwe on August 8 1981. Armed with a diploma in hotel management at first, Chirisa delved into theatre acting.
He played lead roles in Crossroads, Upside Down, The Island and Harry: The Brother from the Older Mother. His biggest break came courtesy of the 2003 role he played as Detective Trevor Davies in Studio 263. His film debut came in the 2003’s Blood Covenant.
Chirisa has starred in Mr Bones 2, Crusoe and crime series NCIS, among many others. Chirisa began to sign for Hollywood roles at the age of 25 while still enrolled as a student at the AFDA School of Film and live performance in South Africa.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree from this acclaimed South African school as Gopal, another Zimbabwean luminary. But Chirisa has gone to Hollywood and he is slowly joining the big league. In fact, he has hob knobbed with some of the greatest names in film and television.
His path to greatness is marked with a determination to earn the necessary stripes to make the world stage. He illustrates that it matters not how one starts, the destination is more important.
Danai Gurira — Actress, playwright and director
I had the privilege of interviewing this gifted artiste in 2013 for this paper. She is very articulate and the minutes morphed into hours as we chatted about her sterling career.
Circa 2006, Gurira won an Obie Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for writing and a Helen Hayes Award for best lead actress for off-Broadway play In the Continuum.
She starred in the 2007 film The Visitor and won Method Fest Film Festival for best supporting actress. Appearances in Ghost Town, 3 Backyards, My Soul to Take, and Restless City have helped cement her status as a serious acting talent alongside cameos in Law&Order: Criminal Intent, Life on Mars, and Law&Order.
In 2009, Gurira appeared on Broadway in August Wilson’s play Joe Turner’s Come and Gone for the first time. It joined the horror series The Walking Dead in the third season as Michonne.
Her list of accomplishments continues to grow and the world watches this rising talent who looks like the late famous United States blues singer Nina Simone.
Born in America’s mid-West but raised in Zimbabwe, the 37-year-old actress attended Chipawo in Harare before leaving the country at 18 to attend university at New York University; she is a holder of an MFA and first degree in psychology.
Next week I will give you the second part of our list of Zimbo stars making the grade far away from the mediocrity we sometimes see locally.