Being a creative in Zimbabwe has its fair share of blessings as well as struggles. Often looked down upon as not being a profession, actors, writers and musicians find themselves caught in between living out their passion and being approved as legitimate. While making a mark on the world is every creatives aim, female creatives have a bigger challenge. However for every new generation of successful women, there are those who defied the odds and broke new ground. These women have made a profound mark on Zimbabwean entertainment. They paved the way go the new generation of female creatives in all spheres and some are still alive to tell their story. In line with women’s month, we would like to honour the female creatives have made it possible for the new generation to be more.
Her most prolific role is ‘Neria’ but Jesesi Mungoshi has been in the film industry since 1984. She is also a director, producer and published writer. She is also owner of a film production company JM Productions. With powerful roles, Jesesi set a bar for young Zimbabwean actresses.
Mbuya Stella Chiweshe
Mbuya Stella Chiweshe is a true ‘gwenyambirakadzi’. She learnt to play the mbira which traditionally was synonymous with men back in the 1960s. She has toured the world and has also been featured in a number of film and television productions. The likes of mbira princess Hope Masike have Mbuya Stella as well as the late queen of mbir a Chiwoniso to thank for making it acceptable for women to play the mbir a.
Busi Ncube is an icon and legend in Zimbabwean Afro Fusion circles. A versatile vocalist and instrumentalist, she is one of the founding members of the iconic Band Ilanga. Busi was part of the male dominated group and we can now see how powerful it is to be the only female in a band or group.
While the newer generation of female writers are yet to set their place, Tsitsi Dangarembga has made her mark. ‘Nervous Conditions’ is the most popular novel that has been used as a set book for examinations. She is also a playwright and wrote the story for the 1993 film Neria, which became the highest-grossing film in Zimbabwean history. In 1996, she directed the film Everyone’s Child. It was the first feature film directed by a black Zimbabwean woman. She is the founder of the International Images Film Festival which was established in 2002.
When it comes to gospel music in Zimbabwe, the Wutawunashe is part of its history. Known as ‘The Family Singers’, the group led by Jonathan and Shuvai Witawunashe became a household name in the 1980s and 90s. Shuvai’s high pitched vocals spread the gospel and contemporary Christian music way before Zimpraise, Mabel Madondo or Fungisai.
Zimbabweans love newsbae, Rumbi Takawira but it was women such as the late Alice Chavunduka who paved way for female anchors. Alice was queen of firsts. She was Zimbabwe’s youngest presenter when she got her first gig at ZBC at 12. She then became the first Black Female Anchor on a ‘white’ channel in South Africa in 1992. She is also one of the first Zimbabwean pan African media personalities, hence the likes of Vimbai Mutinhiri can conquer African media.
Radio in the 90s was a different ball game. The female voices on the airwaves were powerful and inspired many young women to speak and have personality. We now have voices that we love from Star FM’s KVG, Power FM’s Butterphly as well as Misred. But before these lovely voices, there were women like Tendai ‘The Sweet thing’ Chakanyuka. The award winning radio, television personality and actress has a 20 year career. Tendai was not just a voice on the radio but that friend, sister or aunt that you want to talk to. It’s evident to see that today’s female radio personalities learnt from the best and gone beyond to become brands.