Art and Culture

Estonian theatre comes to Zimbabwe
By Tins Magaba
Estonia is a small country in the Baltic regions that not everyone in Zimbabwe can easily point to on the world map. Award winning Kateater Theatre Company from Estonia was in Africa for the first time two months ago -

right here in Harare. Jaan Urvet still holds memorable impressions of Zimbabwe, five weeks after his visit to the country for HIFA. “HIFA is one of the best festivals we’ve been to. On our trips to Chile, Japan, Peru, Russia, Venezuela and Argentina we had technical problems with props, lights and sound. It was also good that we could communicate with the festival staff in English. Everywhere the people were very friendly and helpful. Though we were in Zimbabwe from a tiny northern Europe country and we felt the warmth of the people. Of course, we understand the complicated economic and political situation of this young independent country. It is one thing to stay in a nice hotel and something else to make an improvised trip to the countryside, where we saw life was more difficult and people were poor. But Zimbabwe is a country rich in nature; rocks, safaris and history and, of course, the impressive Victoria Falls.”
Urvet and his Kateater colleagues were overwhelmed with the response they got from the Zimbabwean audience for their play, Niagara. “This was the first time that we felt that the audience understood everything we were trying to do. We felt that everyone was on the same wavelength. It was very easy to perform in Harare,” he explained.
Even though the play had more Estonian words than English this did not create a communication barrier with between the actors and the audiences. “I think that in a theatre performance emotions and movement are much important than language. Theatre means a story and activity. Only by expressing ourselves effectively, can we impress the audience.”
The play Niagara focuses on the legendary story of Blondin, the first man to cross the Niagara Falls. What values does the play communicate to people in Africa? “It is a story about the fear of loneliness, about friendship, about human love that provide us strength to carry on and move still closer to the Sun. The more abandoned, solitary and bereft of love a person is, the more beautiful and wonderful this experience will be for him.”
Kateatar had a tour around the country that left them yearning for more. During their countywide tour, they visited Gweru, Masvingo, Great Zimbabwe, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls. “Everywhere we got lots of impressions of the history and culture of Zimbabwe. We had opportunities to visit private homes and observe ordinary family life. Of course, our lifestyles are different. But our hopes and dreams are similar.”
Though the Estonian actors were not involved in any outreach programmes in their tour to Zimbabwe, they have expressed an interest in cultural exchange programmes in various fields such as the teaching of drama, puppet theatres etc. These programmes have a two-way purpose as both parties’ benefit. Art is a diverse community that brings together people from different nationalities. Jaan Urvet, underlined the importance of establishing cultural contacts. “Though we only attended shows but established no contacts. There were so many good surprises related to acting, musical styles and visual arts. It would be nice if we could establish more exchanges between countries, which are as different as Estonia and Zimbabwe.”

The crowning of a musical princess
By Tins Magaba
Zimbabwe is witnessing the crowning of a musical princess in the young and gorgeous Kudzai Sevenzo. Since the release of her first album, On A Day Like This, Kudzai has surely been maturing with age in her vocal presentation as well as in the depth and meaning of her lyrics. Her musical goal is just right: to get the audience to sing along, clap and dance. The youthful diva is currently completing work on her latest musical project, which has according to herself, ‘Afro-pop sounds.’ Music critics have described the significant transition in her music as the Defining of Kudzai Sevenzo. Unlike other youthful singers who use back up CDs for public performance, Kudzai is a real performer. She puts heart to every word she is singing. Listening to her musical performances you are bound to shed tears with emotion and excitement. Though her second album is still untitled, a few new songs that she has performed have been enthusiastically received. The album, which is expected to come out later in the year, promises to be a sizzling hot musical gem.
For a focused young artist with firmly set goals, Kudzai is always keen to learn new things. In 2004, she was the sole Zimbabwe representative in the M-Net television reality show, Project Fame, a South African musical academy. This year she was one of the 13 young singers from Africa to participate in the inaugural La Voix Workshop held in Zimbabwe during the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA). “The workshop was a fantastic opportunity for me to interact with other young musicians from different parts of Africa and create vital network links”, she said.
Musical workshops are fundamental in the growth and development of young stars. Kudzai affirms this; “They obviously keep you a lot more networked and more importantly create ground for exciting collaborative ventures. Workshops are better than competitions. Though they celebrate individuality, there is more sharing of creative experiences.” Has she gained anything from these various mentoring initiatives? “Of-course I am learning to be a better musical artist from the continent of Africa. I love Africa and therefore always want my music to celebrate life in Africa.” While the new generation of musicians cropping up in Zimbabwe is accused of singing nonsense songs and not contributing to the social fabric of their communities, Kudzai Sevenzo is sure shining above her peers. “I have always believed that society should be changed through the arts, and that is what my music is set to do, to challenge the way people think and the way they view themselves.”

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