Potrait of an African Renaissance man

HARARE - Dancer, poet, novelist, sculptor, painter, martial artist and lecturer of African cultural values, Tawanda Chabikwa represents the epitome of the African Renaissance Man.
Many will know him for his reputation as artistic director and choreographer of Tumbuka Dance Company and his recent collaboration with Israeli/American dancer Shi Pratt, who is currently based in Norway, at the 2012 Hifa Dance programme.

He also performed a solo dance routine entitled Digression in The Fourth Movement which gave a subtle inquisition into the value of dance.

Object theatre and dance were used to shift the context and relevance of experience.
The work makes use of an original sound score by Ravel, incorporating voice, environmental sound and music as the dancer moves through a contained field of bottles.

The dance act was a delicate deconstruction of an African psychological landscape.  

However, his other talents have been subdued due to lack of publicity and his own humility.

Chabikwa’s sophomore novel Baobabs in Heaven revealed another side of this virtuoso artist.
In this novel he articulates the dual existence of most contemporary Zimbabwean people who straddle rural traditions and urban tribulations concurrently.

Through the novel the multi-disciplined artist finds his voice as a lucid social-critic.

The novel is set during the trying bearer-cheque era.  

It is a witty critique of the Zimbabwean fiscal crash of 2007 — 2009.  

He brings new energy into the production and discourse of post-colonial Zimbabwean literature.  

In this masterfully crafted new novel, the author traces the lives of two brothers; one living in the city and the other in the rural area.

The reader is exposed to a new Zimbabwean society, one which is transitional, diasporic and fleeting — a lifestyle that characterised that period of our history.

The ignorance of the missionaries about African culture mirrors what Chabikwa feels is the lack of clarity the world has about contemporary Africa today. In his book, Land Reform, Aids and the Necessity of a black market in a Poor Economy, were a part of the experiences of the character’s life, as were the more universal themes of love, family and kinship.

The reality of Chabikwahas given shape to the poetic language in the novel which translates into vivid, yet dreamlike experiences.

The novel, which is part autobiographical, follows a man of three Africas: rural, urban and mythological.

The works of writers Haruki Murakami, Milan Kundera and Dambudzo Marechera influenced him in his first novel.  

Here, he communicates ancient African stories through the voice of a sage grandmother, Ambuya, who tells myths by the firelight to the village children. She pulls the reader into a mythical time, and space, which is characteristic of Zimbabwean traditional folkloric orature.

“What I would want in my heaven would be wide open spaces and baobab trees lining everything” said the author about the book he wrote whilst attending College of Atlantic in Main, US, where he is currently studying for a doctorate in Human Ecology.

The only one of his siblings to be educated outside Zimbabwe, left the country aged 15 to attend United World College, an international school in Hong Kong.

Since then his intellectual ability has granted him scholarships which have taken him around the world in pursuit of his education.

Though the story is very much about a sense of place, Chabikwa was most interested in character development and exploring why people do what they do, even when their actions are problematic or self-destructive.

Sadness, anger and depression manifest themselves in very different ways in Zimbabwe. - Tonderayi Zvimba, Arts Correspondent

*The novel, Baobabs in Heaven is currently available internationally through Amazon.com.

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