Retracing late actress Xaba's footsteps

HARARE - Late actress Pretty Xaba, who succumbed to oesophageal cancer in India on December 6, was buried in Musengezi on Saturday.

The ex-Studio 263 passed away in New Dehli at the BLK Super Speciality Hospital where she was receiving treatment.

In honour of the late actress, we re-run a no-holds-barred interview we did Xaba on April 14 last year.

“Life in Studio 263 was hell”

Vivacious Pretty Xaba is widely regarded as one of the best actors ever to emerge in this country. Pretty recently spoke to Daily News on Sunday’s TARISAI MACHAKAIRE on her career in acting and her views on the state of the arts industry. Below are the excerpts of the frank interview:

When did you get into acting?

My career in acting started around 1986-87. I was just a young girl in her early 20s and we would go to Mbare Kumakitchen where we did community theatre.

There was one lady called Beatrice Matsvetu who recognised our talent and motivated us to start a drama club which we later called Uprising.

She introduced our group to the University of Zimbabwe arts section. UZ students come from the arts section came join us and as a result we became very popular.

Our first project was Imwe Chanzi Ichabvepi. We took this play to many schools around Zimbabwe.

How did your television break come about?

I responded to a newspaper advertisement in 1990 that sought Ndebele speakers for a new television drama.

The auditions were conducted by King Dube and Busi Ncube. I could speak fluent Ndebele but when I got there I felt nervous because the other girls were actually from Bulawayo while some were studying film.

I was just an ordinary girl coming from Mhondoro where I lived with my family.

But luckily for me the auditions went well and I made my first appearance on ZTV in a drama series titled Xola which was directed by the late King Dube and Busi Dube. I made a lasting impression and as a result I landed the main character’s role in Coliwe, a drama about a childless married woman.

I later featured in Murambiwa and in the soapie Studio 263 as Mai Muwengwa -a woman married to a promiscuous man. I also featured in Fading Pictures and in the popular movie Lobola as a cultured mother with a snob daughter.

I have also featured in various educational videos under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Family Planning Council, Media for Development and Video Audio Network. I consider myself an activist who, through acting, voices various topical issues affecting society.

Why did you leave Studio 263?

When I started at Studio 263 everything was okay and we would be provided with everything and get paid on time.

Standards started deteriorating when Population Services International withdrew their sponsorship.

Another thing was the ill-treatment we received from our director Godwin Mawuru. I remember at one time I lived with a sister who was very sick at home and I received a call while in the middle of a shoot that my sister had seriously deteriorated.

I asked to have my scenes cast first so that I could attend to my personal problems but Mawuru refused and after a few minutes I received a call that my sister had died.

Even after my sister had died he refused to let me go .He asked  one of the drivers go and collect my sister’s body and take it to the mortuary so that we could continue with the shooting.

My life as part of the Studio 263 cast was just full of frustrations and I just woke up one day and decided to leave. I never submitted a resignation letter, I was fed up!

What else have you done besides acting?

I have done make up and wardrobe management for many productions. I have also been involved in facials and have received training on how to create fake wounds and burns.

My mentor was Evelyn Gambe .

I did make up for Gringo, Taka, Waiters part 1 and 2 at Rooftop Promotions.

In Namibia I did make up for six months in a production called Where Others wavered. That was in 2005.

I have been involved in campaigns against HIV/ Aids. I have done voluntary work at Clear Vision Trust an organisation which was created by people living with HIV.

What is your view of the state of the Zimbabwean arts industry?

Creativity does not exist anymore; the industry is now full of people who have no passion for acting. All they want is just want to come out on television.

There are new players who do not have art at heart and that is making standards deteriorate.

They call themselves “directors” and mislead upcoming actors and actresses thus impeding development of the film industry.

Is acting a lucrative career in Zimbabwe?

The truth is acting does not pay. There is no actor in Zimbabwe who lives off acting only; there is no money. Because of political reasons, foreign film investors do not want to come to Zimbabwe anymore.

Back then, we would do commercials for local companies like Olivine and Lever Brothers.

But things have changed. All these companies have all started trading under totally different people who have discontinued including us in their commercials because of the tough economic environment.

This has affected us actors a lot. Students who spend years in high learning institutions training to be actors never get a chance to earn a living from acting and from film.

They get a chance once in a while at the Harare International Festival of Arts (Hifa) which comes once in year and sadly it can never accommodate them all.

What were some of the challenges you encountered that still affect the industry even now?

Freedom of expression is the greatest challenge hampering the development of the arts sector. Sometimes you create your script; look for sponsors only to be denied approval by the censorship board or Police.

Scripts are usually denied space due to political reasons. I remember when Aaron Chiundura Moyo did Chihwerure which centred on corruption that rocked the council those days.

He encountered a lot of delays before he could get going.

Which production would rate as your best and which one do you regard as your worst?

My best production was Coliwe. It was my debut on television but despite the fact that I was a novice I landed the role of the main character.

I managed to relate scenes with emotions. I remember a scene in court.

On the script it wasn’t written that I am supposed to cry but I just cried.

I made myself feel like I was really the character in the drama. It was my best.

I could say the worst one was when I featured on Tim naBhonzo.

I am not a comic person but I ended up going for that comedy because at that time I was really broke and jobless yet it was the only available job. It was fun though.

Do you have role models?

Yes, Stellah January. She does television theatre. The late Muwengwa he had become very close to my family ha was also a good friend.

There are also people like Charity Dhlodhlo and Mukoma Yanayi Tsvuura for the inspiration they give me.I should also include the late Stembeni Makawa and Brenda Moyo.

I also have my little sisters in acting Tatenda Mavetera and Chipo Bizure. I have also learnt a lot from them.

How did you balance time between your family and acting?

I had demanding shoots and sometimes I would realise that I am not spending enough time with my family.

I remember sometimes I actually had to take the kids with me to work. It was hectic but I would always find time to spend quality time with my family.

Tell me about your family?

I have two kids both girls and they are both into art. Hope is a poet and Runyararo is an actor.

How old are you?

I was born on 14 November 1965 anyone can calculate how old I am.

What kind of dressing do you like?

I can dress for any occasion and I know how to put my make up to suit an occasion.

What words do you have for upcoming female film makers and actors?

When we started in the film industry we had producers that taught us how to handle fame.

It’s disheartening because upcoming female artistes lack knowledge on how to handle fame.

Once they get popular they associate with wrong people and most of them allow men to take advantage of them and before they know their careers are destroyed.

They should remain focused and refuse to be swayed by fame. Above all pray to God.

Comments (4)

Rest in peace pretty you will always be remembered by many zimbabweans Nakastabhile.

zuze - 15 December 2014

R.I.P

nuff respect - 15 December 2014

nHAKASITHABILE,I AM GOING TO MISS YOU SO MUCH,WAKATIRWADZISA ASI NDONZIRA YEDU TESE.TICHENGETERE MUSHA IKOKO.RIP MY SISTER.

Cde Matimati - 16 December 2014

nHAKASITHABILE,I AM GOING TO MISS YOU SO MUCH,WAKATIRWADZISA ASI NDONZIRA YEDU TESE.TICHENGETERE MUSHA IKOKO.RIP MY SISTER.

Cde Matimati - 16 December 2014

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