New York, August 11th 2014 | Danai J Gurira
No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid. ~ Lupita Nyong’o
Igot an email today from one of my favorite Zimbabwean Artists. Tafadzwa Bob Mutumbi (affectionately called TafBob by many, a meshing of his African and Western names) is a face I am sure you all know well by now if you have received our newsletters, browsed our website or looked at our e – blasts. He has been a part of almost every Almasi workshop, production and staged reading we have conducted. I met him several years ago, he was in the graduating class of my dear friend Craig Peter’s acting course. I taught him there and was immediately drawn to his spirit, his adoration of the craft, his deep desire to learn, to grow – to be the best he could be. His energy was infectious and I could always rely on him to go above and beyond. It was from meeting people like him, people who come from hard and disadvantaged backgrounds – but who are determined to grow to their fullest potential in this most precarious of fields – that led me to start giving back and bringing access to the Zimbabwean artist. That type of commitment and talent deserved support and opportunity.
He was part of both of our Acting Intensives this year. The first faciliator, actor Andre Holland, would send me bi – weekly emails, with thoughts, comments and assessments. The first email he sent, he spoke of Tafbob, “He is like a young James Earl Jones, so talented, just seems to have pure joy in being on stage, a really amazing young actor”
That commentary, from a highly trained, skilled and experienced American artist, gave me chills. This was the pursuit, this was what Almasi has hoped to facilitate, the exchange, where Americans and Africans see the power and ability in the other, where they see each other, admire each other, liken each other to themselves and help each other get to the highest point of their potential.
Now, for that email.
TafBob is about to make a great trek. From Zimbabwe to America. He was accepted to a year long program at Del’ Arte International School of Physical Theater in Blue Lake California and with the help of a fellowship he pursued and Almasi support along with several other well wishers, he is set to arrive Stateside in late September. His email today was particularly touching. Because in true Tafbob fashion, he was humble and deeply thankful. But he was also battling with something: fear. He spoke of how he was not going let it conquer him, but of how he was scared to actually arrive on this soil he has seen from afar for so long; that land of opportunity and access. But he also said, “Once again, thanks much for your investment, I will die making sure that you will never regret it”
And I believe him.
The goals of Almasi are more than met through this pending exchange. We celebrate this opportunity coming into existence, we celebrate the chance Tafbob now has to go further and have his talents nurtured and showcased in a global arena. We celebrate this, and encourage him to walk right through that fear and on to that plane. We will meet and support him on the other side. We here in America can sometimes take for granted how deeply sought the opportunities we have here are by those in other parts of the world. How much our infrastructures and systems are envied by those who do not get to see their abilities developed to their fullest. I hope to have you get to know Tafbob a bit more on his journey, which we will document, and I hope that keeps us all investing in seeing to it that the unheard voice gets a chance to be amplified.