What is killing Zimbabwean theatre?

17 Mar, 2019 - 00:03 0 Views

The Sunday Mail

Takudzwa Chihambakwe

LIKE the rest of the world, Zimbabwe celebrates World Theatre Day on March 27. World Theatre Day has been celebrated worldwide since 1962.

Chipawo this week hosts a two-day workshop on Wednesday and Thursday for theatre practitioners that work with children. This is in celebration of World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People. The same organisation has a massive celebration of World Theatre Day at Theatre in the Park in Harare on March 30.

There are many other events by different theatre production companies that are lined up. Theatre in the Park has some shows from March 27 to 29 while in Bulawayo action will take place from April 4 to 6 at venues yet to be announced.

However, there is something troubling about the local theatre landscape — it is in a comatose. Only a handful of people watch theatre these days. This development comes on the back of Zimbabwe boasting of amazing talent and local universities churning out theatre arts graduates by the hundreds. It is ironic, because some of the world’s best theatre brains are Zimbabwean. For instance, renowned theatre practitioner and founder of Theatre in the Park, Daves Guzha, is currently the president of Arterial Network Africa and chairperson of the fifth African Union Pan-African Cultural Congress Bureau.

Josh Nyapimbi, the founder of Nhimbe Trust is a key player in policy framing for the creative sector on the continent. Stephen Chifunyise is the current chairman for Culture Committee, Zimbabwe National Commission for Unesco while godfather of local arts, Cont Mhlanga, the brains behind Amakhosi Theatre is also still in the game. Then there is the global icon, Danai Gurira, whose profile has been greatly elevated after featuring in the Oscar-winning film, “Black Panther”. The Almasi Arts founder has wowed the world with various intriguing productions such as “Eclipsed” and “The Convert”. And she continues to try her best with her local partners to boost theatre in Zimbabwe.

All these aforementioned folks are gurus in Zimbabwe’s arts and creative sector. These individuals have put the Zimbabwean arts on the global map through their robust networks that can cause millions of foreign currency to flow into the country, but that is a discussion for another day.

These creatives have one thing in common — the theatre genes. Through theatre they have become the people they are, global leaders who when they sneeze the theatre world catches a cold. But as the world braces to celebrate world theatre this week, is it not ironic that the genre is in the intensive care unit on the local front.

But what has caused the sector that has so many apt players to struggle to make a robust impact in society today?

“There are a myriad of challenges affecting the theatre sector in Zimbabwe. The first thing is that the standard of theatre productions has unbelievably deteriorated due to lack of exposure and proper training of theatre makers so that their productions can be of acceptable quality in line with international standards,” said founder of blossoming theatre hub, Savanna Trust, Daniel Maposa.

“There is also a serious lack of financial investment in the theatre sector. Most of the theatre produced for professional circuits is poor theatre not in style but in outlook as a result of lack of resources to finance all the aspects of theatre like set, good actors, good scripts and good directors,” he explained.

Maposa who has made inroads on the global stage through the genre and is creating employment for youths via his trust, also feels that the absence of deft writers has caused the genre to struggle on the local front.

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