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“Taxi conversations inspire my poetry”
News / Latest / Ernest Kanjo
Sunday, 02 May 2010 22:03

CHIGAMA_2-Batsirai Chigama, Zimbabwean performance poet

Zimbabweans may have little interest in written poetry because of a general lackluster reading attitude. But, for some time now, there has been a silver lining to this problem - oral poetry. With the proliferation of performance poets in the country, many more people now find time and space in their hearts for poetry. This has been thanks to the incredible talent, displayed by some of the country's performance poetess, among them, Batsirai Chigama. At one of the Harare International Festival of Arts (HIFA) poetry cafés, the young poet from Murehwa, gave spectators a reason for their entry tickets. TIPTOPSTARS' Ernest Kanjo caught up with Chigama soon after the show. Excerpts.

After such a wonderful performance, do you think your day has been fulfilled?

Certainly! Each time I perform and received such positive feedback, I go home feeling really proud of myself.

For how long have you been doing poetry?

Four years. I started way back in 2006.

What motivated you into poetry?

For me, it is the most appropriate means to vehicle a message across. I think I have a lot to tell the world and need such a forum to express myself.

How do you get inspired?

I gain inspiration from everyday experiences. It could a conversation in a taxi cab, a book I read or other happenings in the society.

How many poems do you have to your credit?

I have written more that 200 and performed quite many. I have published 96 in a collection. Some of my poems which are not available in Zimbabwe have been published in the UK.

Have you ever been reprimanded for performing critical poems?

No. We got real freedom of expression.

As a woman how do you find the task?

Quite easy for me! Many girls are getting inspired by what I do and are coming on board. I have always encouraged them to join the few of us who are in the art.

Which is the poem you will always be caught performing?

Braille, The Art of Feeling is my favourite piece. It is so inspiring to me and talks about a way of expressing oneself when one faces certain challenges.

What else does Chigama do apart from poetry?

I do gender project writing for a civil society organization, based in Harare.




African arts journalists create network
News / Latest / Ernest Kanjo
Sunday, 02 May 2010 21:51

AAJN_MeetsFor the first time, a network for arts journalists in Africa will exist. AAJN, African Arts Journalists Network will go operational in the coming months, to cater for the professional needs of the practice of arts reporting, generally relegated to the background.

Meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, over a dozen and a half arts journalists, coming from across the continent have laid the ground works for the eventual kick-off of the network. A task team has been set up to prepare the requirements for an official launching of the body, expected to give arts journalism a new boost.

In various sessions, the media persons diagnosed the ailments, pinning down the practice of this journalistic genre, to be able to project into possible ways of making it more palatable and acceptable. They all reported that in their various countries and newsrooms, arts reporting was not only relegated to the background, but those practicing were to a great extent deficient, as far as knowledge of the various artistic expressions was concerned.

This, they all agreed had been impedimental on the quality of reporting dished out to the audience. Such challenges could only be dealt with if AAJN, after its birth, embarked on training, sharing information and experiences, lobby for and defend the interest of arts journalists, recognize and encourage excellence and press for the respect of professional ethics.

While working on the AAJN strategic plan document ahead of the network's eventual launching, the pressmen hope this initiative will go a long way to change the current erroneous perception of arts reporting. "We will have to lobby for recognition and support at major summits, why not?" said Chris Kabwato of the South Africa-based Reporting development Network Africa, who was facilitating the sessions.

To Bicaba Ismael, arts journalists from Burkina Faso, AAJN is a welcome move. "I predict a bright future for arts journalism whereby the continent's rich cultural heritage will be valourised through what we do," he told TIPTOPSTARS.

Meanwhile, Arterial Network, one of the continent's most active promoters of culture has acknowledged it was necessary to give birth to AAJN. Explaining why the organization has lent its full support to the creation of a such a body, General Manager Belisa Rodrigues said arts reporting was an aspect of culture usually neglected, despite its importance. "We think freedom of expression is primordial. AAJN should be independent and even have the latitude to be critical of Arterial Network," she pointed out.

The AAJN preliminary sessions took place side-by-side activities to mark the 2010 edition of the Harare International Festival of Arts (HIFA) that attracted thousands of visitors into Zimbabwe's beautiful capital city.




Zimbabwe: Arts festival showcases Africa’s cultural heritage
News / Latest / Ernest Kanjo
Sunday, 02 May 2010 21:27


Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 18:04
Zimbabwe: When indigenous beats becomes hard to resist
News / Latest / Ernest Kanjo
Sunday, 02 May 2010 20:33

MBIRA_PHOTOIf you cherish quiet moments, go to Dzimbanhete. It is a small village situated 25km away from Zimbabwe's capital Harare along the road to Bulawayo. Here, lies a place - Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions. It is a resource centre and meeting point for the country's young and talented artists.

On a late morning visit to this beautiful site, expect to have a good feel of nature's sweet gifts to mankind and a prompt appreciation of art in all its facets. The only good thing, perhaps, that will perturb your knack for a quiet environment, is the sound of the mbira, a Zimbabwean tradition musical instrument. You would however not regret listening to it, for, mbira's melody makes sense to the ear.

Such entertaining traditional sound, accompanied by male voices, percussion beats, clappers (makwa) and fascinating choreography is what Mbira Dzenharo, a Dzimbanhete traditional music band offers. With Edmond Chikanya at the mbira bass, Spencer Chiyangwa and Byron Chikanya at the mbira rhythm, Saiti Maposa at the drums, the band dishes out numerous dance-provoking pieces. ''We have 16 songs compiled in two albums,'' Mbira Dzeharo group manager, Brighton Munemo revealed.

Songs in these albums have been performed throughout Zimbabwe during small events. Mbira Dzenharo performances have always moved potential sponsors to make promises which have unfortunately not be fulfilled. ''We would have taken this group further if people and corporate organisations chipped in their supported,'' Chikanya regretted. Were it not for the Zimbabwe Music Comparative (ZMC) that sponsored studio recording, the groups scintillating pieces would have remained remote. ''We now have our songs on CDs and can widely circulate them if the means are available.''

For now, Mbira Dzenharo is contented with thrilling guests to the Dzimbanhete Arts Interactions and interacting with them, hoping that their little might would some day be a giant contribution to traditional African dance and music. And long after you have driven out of Dzimbanhete, the sounds of mbira stays on your mind.  


CRTV is 25 – Any silver lining?
News / Latest / Ernest Kanjo
Tuesday, 13 April 2010 21:32
crtv_immeuble-x495Adult Cameroonians and those who by 1985 could boast of a sense of taste were gripped by a nolstalgic fit during the 25th anniversary celebration of the Cameroon Radio and Televison Corporation, CRTV recently. Good old-time memories of how the television magic hit Cameroon two and the half decades ago were once more regurgitated. It sufficed for some pioneer images, broadcast in the 1980s and 90s to be brought back on the airwaves for a huge segment of the Cameroonian population to run into a fit.

For one week during the Silver Jubilee celebration, CRTV televiewers were treated to old, but famous shows such as Elvis Kemayou's Tele Podium, Foly Dirane's Dance Cameroon Dance, Marie Rose Nzie's Coco Rosi, Akwanka Joe Ndifor's (of blessed memory) Minute by Minute, Diedonne Tine Pigui's Regard sur le Monde, etc. Perhaps, the highlight of the 25th anniversary was the bilingual news anchored by pioneers, Eric Chinje and Denise Epote, just like they did in the old good days of CTV.

Throughout the week, as CRTV aired those shows, tears flew. Many remembered the early days of television with mixed feelings - joy, sadness. Joy because they were once more treated to programmes that were pregnant with meaning. Programmes that touched community life. Programmes that held viewers spellbound. Such shows might not have been produced using the most modern technical means as is the case today, but they attracted a wide audience. Televiewers failed every where else but not to catch up with their prime time shows. They watch these shows religiously and made their presenters iconic figures. The grip of the television magic was too strong to resist. That is how people felt again during the 25th anniversary week in Cameroon. Some observers argue that the euphoria was thanks to the fact that TV was just making its debut in Cameroon. But the truth is that the programmes as well as their hosts were good enough. Eric Chinje, Charles Ndongo, Denise Epote, Julius Wamey, Ben berka Njovens (of blessed memory), Yolande Ambiana, Rose Epie, Pamela Messi, Michel Ngoumou, etc had no predecessors to learn from. They were pioneering, yet performed so well. That experience still remains a mystery.

However, there was a certain degree of disappointment as TV lovers joined the national broadcaster in celebrating its Silver Jubilee. Where has that flare, savoured in the 1980s and 90s gone to? What had become of the State-run television that had caused it to lose audience to such a huge extent? Such questions filled the aired during the Silver week. CRTV's pioneer General Manager, Florent Eli Etoga was quoted by a French private daily as saying he felt sick when he looked at CRTV today - "Quand je regards la CRTV aujourd'hui, je me sente mal," Le Jour wrote in its cover story.

The "National Television" as it is affectionately called by its staff as a way of managing the stiff competition of other channels, has dwindled along the years. Not only the coming of more vibrant privately owned TV channels have exposed CRTV's weaknesses, but the apparent short supply of creativity has put the giant broadcaster on the red. The elitist nature of CRTV's programmes soon estranged its audience who would later find solace in more community-based and socially rewarding shows offered by other stations. Its institutional news approach soon became too unpallatable to the lay viewer who now sees more meaning in watching human interest stories. Then, with the coming of pidgin broadcasters and their "infotainment" concept (though pioneered by CRTV Mount Cameroon FM's Kolle George), the national broadcaster has gone limping. The masses had gone and found pleasure elsewhere. Even at the sumptuous gala to crown CRTV's Silver week, guest comedians did not fail to point this out. "Remplir l'antenne avec les belles emissions," Kegege begged, meaning that the airwaves should filled with good programmes.

Fortunately, the twist in the landscape has been glaring and officials of the State-run television are conscious the tides are high. That is why efforts are being made to win back its audience. The recent move to now feature more of local fiction productions could be one of the ways in reviving the old dream. Happy 25 CRTV!

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 April 2010 08:48
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