Harare, August 21st 2014 | Tafadzwa Bob Mutumbi
Idiscovered at a very tender age that I had the ability to actually tell stories and change people’s lives. From that time I struggled to find the right medium to use to tell these stories. I tried different ones: the pen, the voice, the brush but still I could not find the “right satisfaction” that I longed for. Through time, I found that my body was my perfect medium. I started using it and bang! All the “right satisfaction” came.
The next mission was to find the right ground and the water and manure to help nature, strengthen, and deepen this seed. Some of the first few drops of water were poured by my friend and mentor, more like a brother really, Mr Patrice Naiambana of Tribal soul arts. (He is a sierra Leonean who is based in the United Kingdom). He came to Zimbabwe in 2011. I had the privilege of working with him from 2011- 2012 as his apprentice. This rich experience gave me a deeper insight into what experimental theatre is. My journey as an actor creator took a stronger shape as Patrice helped me to discover my artistic voice and start to mould it.
During that same period I was also blessed with working with Mr Harold George of Dunia dance theatre. He gave me more confidence in myself in terms of using my body as a medium. He also helped with my writing as well. Another drop of water was poured by my brother and peer mentor Mr Lloyd Nyikadzino of the International Theatre Institute – Zimbabwe Centre. He came in 2011 (when I was still a student at the Theory X theatre Initiative) looking for notes Commedia Dell’ Arte. I loaned them to him as he was going to study it in the US, at the Dell ‘ Arte International School for Physical Theatre in California. When I researched the school, I was intrigued by their work, what they have done, what their training stands for and what their alumni have accomplished. I immediately expressed my desire to also train there as their work fit very well with my artistic mission.
Lloyd came back from the US and had convinced the school to start an “African Fellowship” for young Africans with talent but without means. I applied and initially did not get it but reapplied again the next year and was admitted. The African Fellowship covers tuition only; the student has to cater for travel, accommodation and other costs themselves. This meant that I had to come up with a financial plan to cater for my needs. I came up empty after several efforts and had to defer to the 2014-15 class.
Fortunately they agreed.
I immediately continued knocking on doors. A lot of the doors were slammed and spiteful responses were thrown at me. I got confused and fear crept inside of me. This forced me to have a deep, honest conversation with myself regarding the need to go abroad and the pros and cons regarding my career and my artistic mission. I decided to go as it would take me to another level in terms of my career, my global exposure and my craft. I could not afford to lose the chance to deepen my abilities as an actor-creator especially at this point in my career where I am relatively stuck and struggling to move to another level. So I decided to pursue the Dell’arte dream. I gathered my begging bowl again and my faith and continued in my pursuit for support.
Fortunately for me, God answered my prayers and the kindness of the following people and organizations’ made the dream come true.
Words alone cannot express my gratitude to the following people for believing in me, my artistic mission and my career. I really would like to thank you profusely from the bottom of my heart for investing in me. Your investment will not go to waste. Thank you my sister and mentor Miss Danai Gurira, my friends Almasi Collaborative Arts, my uncle, comrade and mentor Mr Harold George, my friends from Dunia dance theatre, my sister and mentor Miss Chipo Chung, the Culture fund of Zimbabwe trust, Jillian Bonnardeaux, Rebecca Mano, the US Embassy Public Affairs section, my brother Mr Lloyd Nyikadzino , International theatre institute- Zimbabwe centre, Matt Chapman, Nicholette Routhier and Dell’arte International School of Physical Theater.
Strangely, when all was set, a sudden unexpected fear crept up inside me again. I was scared of failure. What if I disappoint all these people that have invested their time, and money in me? I began to foolishly doubt myself. Just putting unnecessary pressure on my shoulders and being negative. I dealt with this cancer before it could spread. I simply told myself, “Comrade don’t be silly, stop making excuses. Look around you, count your blessings. Haven’t you been blessed with the gift of working with more than six highly talented American theatre artists for the past two years through Almasi Collaborative Arts’ cultural exchange programs? Did these Amazing people not teach you some of the world’s best standards and ethics? Did they not help you to strengthen and deepen your craft to match world standards so that you can conquer the world with your work? Did they not help you to fall deeply in love with your craft? Did they not help you to discover that everything takes work and risk? If you become negative about yourself like that don’t you see that you are spitting in their faces and trashing all the gold you got from them?”
In that same instance I heard Patience Tawengwa and Danai Gurira’s voices whisper these words in my ears…”Stop making excuses, people of excellence don’t make excuses….” It changed me and my attitude. I then told myself, “well, the least that I am going to do to honor these amazing people is take a chill pill and wait for September; go to America and bring back the valuable education I will obtain and gain in ways I can now only imagine and then proceed to share it with my fellow countrymen.”