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Stephen Chifunyise’s rich legacy earns him festival in his name

Zimnat

The Stephen Chifunyise International Theatre Festival would not have come at a more opportune time than now since the man left a rich legacy in the arts industry.

Stephen J Chifunyise died in August 2019 after a life dedicated to creative and cultural expression not only in Zimbabwe but Africa and the wider world through his work with UNESCO and as the go to guy for various continental and international bodies. At the time of his death, Stephen had penned more than 80 known theatre plays. Amongst some of the globally recognised  titles are: “Rituals” (an exposition on the spiritual ramifications as a result of some of the politically motivated killings of 2008 elections and the subsequent societal degradation),  “Strange Bed Fellows”(Zimbabwe’s most travelled play), the iconic “Medicine for Love”, “Roki and Maneta” (based on Zimbabwe’s two entrants to the highly charged MNet reality TV show “Big Brother”), “Lovers, Friends and Money”, “Indigenous, Indigenous, Indigenous ”etc.

His body of work in television includes the ground -breaking race relations as well as Zimbabwe’s first sitcom “Waiters”, post independent series “Solo na Mutsai”, various Children’s stories, books and folklore.

Conversations with industry relatives namely, University of Zimbabwe (Dr Kelvin Chikonzo), Savanah Trust (Daniel Maposa), CHIPAWO Trust (Chipo Bhasopo), National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (Nicholas Moyo), the Chifunyise Family, Peter Churu etc yielded and cemented the thought process to start the “Stephen J Chifunyise International Theatre Festival with its first edition being 26th-28th March 2020 to be held at Theatre in the Park, Harare Gardens.

Some of the countries who have already confirmed participation are Zambia, Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi and South Africa. We are still waiting on more confirmations. The three day programme will be an eclectic mix of children, universities, practitioners, film makers, presentations looking into his plays, novels, films, dances, academic papers etc.

Whilst Rooftop Promotions and Theatre in the Park will be the implementing agency, an independent Advisory Board is being put in pace. Royalties from the festival will be made out to the Stephen J Chifunyise Trust which is administered by the family as per the wishes of the late.

The celebration of such an iconic figure, we hope is the start of a whole Pan African movement which will see us as Africans celebrating and immortalising our own creative greats.

Tributes for the late Chifunyise came from all walks of life.

WHAT THE MEDIA AND ARTS INDUSTRY EXPERTS SAID:

legendary playwright, cultural expert, theatre and dance guru and a cultural master practitioner…” UNESCO

Stephen Chifunyise, the prolific Zimbabwean playwright and cultural connoisseur…” CNN

“…..arts icon, playwright and former top government official…” NewZimbabwe

“…described Chifunyise as an arts administrator par excellence, endowed with unparalleled skills, vision and utmost creative ingenuity.” Nicholas Moyo – Herald.

“Under his wise guidance, Mbende-Jerusarema Dance was proclaimed an intangible cultural heritage for humanity by UNESCO.” – Tafadzwa Zimoyo – Herald

“……he co-founded the Children’s Performing Arts Workshop (Chipawo) in 1989—where the likes of Danai Gurira had the opportunity to have their talents developed at a young age.” OkayAfrica

Also an actor, director, musician and choreographer, he started his career in exile in Zambia during the 1970s, returning to Zimbabwe after independence in 1980. According to Amazon, he wrote 73 plays, 63 of which have been performed on stage, radio and television in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sweden, South Africa, Malawi, India, the UK etc.” Voice of Nigeria (VON)

External Partners’ Comments

Sam Kasankha-Zambia

“Steve was part of Zambia’s theatre environment from its relatively formative days as a part of the University of Zambia community, and remained attached to it to his death.

His overall involvement with theatre made him so well-known many Zambians didn’t even know he was Zimbabwean till his time of relocation. His plays featured prominently on the vastly subscribed ‘Play for Today’ TV program on national television as well as at many local festivals.

In effect, Steve is as much our hero in Zambia as he is anywhere else where he is celebrated. We jointly own his honours and to us, especially that he did once marry a Zambian, he remains a Zimbabwean Zambian.

We are elated to be part of the festival that celebrates Stephen Chifunyise!”

Raisedon Baya – Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

“Well, Uncle Steve did so much for local theatre. We owe him a lot. The best way to honour him and keep his name alive is through this festival and to continue producing his plays and making people watch them. For me it’s also personal,

Through Rooftop Promotions I was able to collaborate with him on two occasions when we wrote Ten Years From Now and Pregnant With Emotion. I think it is important to know the true heroes of our trade and celebrate them appropriately. Uncle Steve is undoubtedly one such hero and his name must live on forever”

Cont Mhlanga Amakhosi Productions, Bulawayo Zimbabwe

“His legacy is with children”

 

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende