Meet Bhekumusa Moyo, the protest artist

HARARE - From the first day he stepped into the cut-throat arts industry some six years ago, he has not known anything outside protest art.

Ranging from poetry to theatre productions he has penned, it is abundantly clear that he does not mince his words at all.

This has earned Bhekumusa Moyo, a commanding title which he now proudly uses as his stage name, the “Protest Poet”.

Born and bred in the dusty streets of Nkulumane suburb in the City of Kings, Moyo is one youngster who has simply allowed his distinguished command of the art discipline to become a pilot of protest art and effectively define his destiny.

At 25, Moyo is the youngest playwright in Zimbabwe to have clashed with the law enforcers over his controversially-created works.

However, the Daily News caught up with the budding dreadlocked artist who opened up on his chosen career path.

“I never chose to be called a Protest Poet; this is the stage name that I was given by those who closely follow my works. My followers concluded that my type of art was protest,” Moyo said.

“I feel it is due to the way I conduct myself regarding my artistic prowess. I often exhibit a degree of freeness and openness mincing no words on systems and policies of this government while I present.

“Some have described me as a political activist but I would rather call myself an ‘artist’ in the sense that I use art to communicate since it is also a language which no one can stop from being used,” the diminutive artist explained.

“Those who have watched me perform my poetry, will bear out to what I am capable of doing while on the podium.

“I regurgitate such issues as social ills, political garbage, democracy staff, freedom verses, gender imparity, constitutionalism, dictatorship, death, life, love and hate.”

Asked about the persecution of artists by the Zimbabwean government Moyo said: “As a country we have a Constitution that carries a freedom of expression clause where you are guaranteed freedom to express yourself but does not guarantee freedom after speech.

“We have a country that purports to be a leader in pan-Africanism and democracy yet its own people are still subjected to various forms of trials and tribulations,” he protested.

Moyo was part of a two-day poetry slamming programme during the just ended Intwasa Arts Festival. He was quoted by the Daily News passing words of advice to fellow slammers some that had come all the way from South Africa, Malawi and Botswana.

“It is sad that there are some artistic works that could not make it to this festival simply because they were banned. You know why your works are banned? It is because what you will have created is what people want to hear and they don’t want people to hear the truth so don’t look back, that’s our job.”

In an apparent sign of his remorseless and unremitting focus on his protest against an array of issues, Moyo has just released a poetry anthology titled the Gourd of Dishonour.

The 36-page book edited by Chris Mlalazi is laden with political satirical poems such as “They Shall All Fall”, “Justified”, “Democracy”, “Election thoughts”, “The Ruling Party’s Final Congress” and “My President is Cool” among others.

An extract from one of his poems titled They Shall All Fall reads:

They shall all fall
For so many have already fallen.
Yes they shall fall
In no particular order
No dictator shall dictate forever
None can stop the winds of revolution
All that flies lands sometime
One by one in no particular
They shall all fall
 
In his debut book, Moyo also passionately interrogates the unresolved issue of Gukurahundi atrocities that saw more than 20 000 people from Matabeleland and Midlands provinces murdered by the North Korean-trained fifth brigade.

While Moyo has exhibited undoubted astuteness in the poetry genre, he has proved that he has what it takes to compete with local playwrights.

To date he is proud of having penned four theatre productions.

In 2007 he came up with his debut play, Period Pains, The National Menstruation followed by Beer in 2008.
Three years later Moyo seemed to have got more than he had bargained for when his play 1983, The Years Before and After was banned by the police.

The play which premiered at Bulawayo Theatre had to be given a green light after the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights quickly intervened.

The play was the first ever since independence to interrogate the controversial issue of Gukurahundi atrocities.

This year, he wrote Before the Next Elections which premiered early this year at Amakhosi Theatre Centre.
The 25-year-old has been to such countries including Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Zanzibar, Tanzania and just recently Malawi.

In 2006 he was voted the national champion for the British Council sponsored Power in the Voice International Festival.

He has twice performed at the Sadc Poetry Festival.

He has shared the stage with Roger Robinson of Trinidad and Tobago, Kabomo Vilakazi of South Africa, Phinda Mkhonta of Swaziland, Joseph Molapong of Namibia, Shiya Kureb of Jamaica, Lemn Sissay of UK, TJ Dema of Botswana in different slams and art festivals.

Locally, he has shared the stage with Chirikure Chirikure, Tinashe Muchuri and Albert Nyathi just to mention but a few.

His aptitude on protest art has seen such organisations as the Bulawayo Agenda, Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association, Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Election Resource Centre and National Youth Development Trust preferring his performance during their events.

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