Driving in Harare

Harare, the so-called Sunshine City, is a place with many faces. Zimbabwe’s capital and largest city, Harare is a city full of poverty and ostentation, of inequality and privilege, of creativity and old thinking, new and broken industries, and the ever restless energy. Continue reading →

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Tanya’s Nefertari

Nefertari means “beautiful companion”. An Egyptian queen and wife of Ramses the Great, Nefertari is celebrated for her beauty and style. She’s a fitting inspiration for Tanyaradzwa Mushayi, who has always had a fascination with Kemet and ancient history. “I thought why not mix my Shona name with my obsession with Kemet.” So she married the two names together, and the Tanya Nefertari brand came into being.

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Driving down Samora

Samora Machel Avenue has to be the longest road I’ve ever driven. It cuts through suburbs, the hustle and bustle of Harare’s central business district, branching off into its many little tributaries that run through the city. It is long, straight, rarely bends, and serves as an artery to the capital city’s daily pulse. Continue reading →

Godfrey: life through his lens

The camera has always fascinated Godfrey Tafadzwa Kadzere. Even though he’d studied commerce since high school, photography remained a presence in his mind, an area he’d always wanted to explore, but never got the occasion to do so.  That all changed when his aunt got him his first camera – a small BenQ digital camera, a present for his 19th birthday.

“I had a growing desire to capture special moments and cherish them, hold onto them in the form of pictures.”

From the pictures he took with this first camera (a camera he still has to this day), Godfrey’s connection with photography grew.  His camera became an extension of him, so much so that people at his university referred to him as the Camera Guy.  Seeing Godfrey without a camera of some sort felt almost unnatural, like a tortoise without its shell.  The more photos he took, the more photography became a part of his life.  “I found myself spending a lot of time carrying my camera everywhere that I would go, then going through each and every one of them, analysing and reflecting on why I took it and looking at how I could improve.”

The Creation of Liyon Media

Liyon Media

Liyon Media’s logo

Godfrey saw an opportunity to make some money off his skill. In July 2013, he started his own media company, Liyon Pictures.  The name has significant meaning for him – a way to honour his past whilst setting the foundations for the future:

“I wanted a name that identifies with my heritage and values. Ndinoera Shumba, proudly. That was key in setting it in stone. The Lion part was going to stick. At the back of my mind I recalled the significance and symbolism of a Lion – noble, respectable, presence. Lastly, I looked up any pages that has similar names. There were several. So I decided to add a twist with an ‘i’. Then it ended as Liyon.”

The venture was strictly meant to be photos only, but over time, Godfrey realised that incorporating other media would work in his favour.  So he started LOTv in 2014, which covers all types of video content: events, panel discussions, one-on-one interviews.  As it stands, Liyon Pictures and LOTv are subsidiaries of Liyon Media.  Liyon Media also has Brand Management and Design sections.

Back to Zimbabwe

Godfrey started his company when he was still a student at Rhodes University.  The campus environment provided fertile ground for his creativity to breathe and flow.  His first clients were his fellow students: they still form a solid support base for Liyon Media.  However, Godfrey finished his degree programme at the end of 2015, and it was time for him (and Liyon Media) to move back across the border. The adjustment to full-time life in Harare has not gone as easily as he’d anticipated.

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“I pretty much started from scratch as the new year rolled in. Since I was hardly in Zimbabwe due to my schooling commitment in South Africa I had a long way to go in building relationships, partnerships and networking with influential industry stakeholders. I am steadying the ship slowly but surely. I am enjoying the experience so far, learning as much as I can from as many people as I get through the year.”

Although not a seamless transition, Godfrey’s enjoyed the experience so far. Working with Zimbojam as well as establishing a name for himself has kept him very busy, and it’s also allowed him to connect with people in the same industry.  Events such as Hustler’s Market,  Unplugged, and the Allied Arts Music Festival have opened avenues for engagement and collaboration – opportunities that Godfrey is excited to explore.

The Road Ahead

From collaborating with other creatives, to maintaining ties with established contacts, and never letting his relationship with God slip or stumble, Godfrey has big plans and even bigger dreams. “So far I am still developing and learning. Soon I will expand – more partnerships, more high quality content, and my own establishment that will house all things media, which I am extremely excited about. That’s my dream – to have a renowned, sort after media house that provides high quality content timeously.”

With every photo and video, he does his own bit to contribute to Zimbabwe’s creative culture, and I’m excited to see more of his work out there.  We could use a few more Godfreys: young, daring and hardworking people who aren’t afraid to embrace their talent and live out their passion.

Godfrey b&w

All photographs and videos in this post are courtesy of Liyon Media

To see more of Liyon Media’s photography, follow them on Twitter @LiyonMedia.

Check out Godfrey’s personal Twitter account @GodfreyTafi

 

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Michelle: the scientist, the DJ

Michelle Mukonyora a.k.a Ella, has put on quite a few caps in her life so far. Both scientist and music lover, she has had experience in different spheres of life. Her story is particularly fascinating for me, because it was the first time I’d heard of an aspiring bioinformatician.

Michelle the DJ

Her journey into her first role began in 2008, after finishing her honours degree.  She decided to take a break for a few years, and during this period she got into the DJ booth for the first time.  “I’ve always had a passion for music, but I was never musical. The one day I got one of my DJ friends to teach me how to do it for fun and I got hooked.”   Michelle was fortunate enough to get a residency soon after she started.  Although this career path was wholly unintended, DJ Elle M was spinning the turntables for a few years.

Michelle the Student

Michelle got involved with biotechnology from high school.  “At the time it was being described as the ‘new frontier’ of the life sciences,” she says, and she was more than ready to launch herself into this scientific unknown.  The initial plan had been to continue her higher education in Australia, where she could do a joint degree in business and biotechnology.  Unfortunately for Michelle, life had other plans: that was the year that the Zimbabwean dollar crashed.  Australia was off the table.  South Africa was the next best option, and that’s where she got her undergraduate degree from the University of the Western Cape in Applied Biotechnology.  She graduated and after she left DJ Elle M behind, Michelle went back to her first love.

“Science is my life. I always knew I’d be back it was just a question of when.” 

Currently a student researcher at the Agricultural Research Council in Pretoria, Michelle’s main focus is drug and vaccine design in Africa, working on animal vaccines and predicting virus structures.  It’s in this team that Michelle can flex her brain muscles and push the boundaries of biotechnology. “I have been given the opportunity to drive my own research process with a wealth of resources at hand. Being exposed to the best equipment and computing power makes one better able to compete globally.”

“My biggest challenge has been not having an emotional support system as a postgraduate student.”

 Michelle has had to deal with a tough and often isolated environment: science is truly her life now. “Science is all consuming with very little reward when you are a student. Your work doesn’t stop when you leave the lab and I wasn’t prepared for that.”  It’s a break from the structures she was used to from her undergraduate studies.  To add to this list of problems, the field of science can be difficult for a young black African woman.  Michelle has been lucky enough not to have experienced any discrimination, but it’s a fact that she’s keenly aware of.  “When I look up to higher positions that I aspire to I don’t find many women, more specifically black women.  I know the ‘Black woman in science’ hurdle is coming up soon for me.”

Michelle the Biotechnologist

“Compared to the rest of Africa we have the potential to be leaders in the field.”

Despite the challenges in the past and the ones to face in the future, Michelle remains optimistic about her relationship with science.  Although studying in South Africa, she has every intention of coming back to Zimbabwe and tapping into the world of potential.  ” In terms of biotechnologists there are plenty of Zimbabweans across the world doing cutting edge research. The key would be to convince them to come back home to the right infrastructure in place.”  Invested in her work as a biotechnologist, Michelle created a website this year, Nyenyedzi Bio, whose aim is to provide a platform for all things science related in Africa.

What struck me the most about Michelle is her dedication to her craft. Although she has done other things with her life, she keeps coming back to her calling.  Zimbabwe is lucky to have people like Michelle: people always questioning the limits of our reality and pioneering the push into our country’s uncharted territory.

“The most exciting part about biology for me has always been how structure relates to function. I love the idea of predicting the structures of small molecules that we can’t see with the naked eye like proteins and DNA and predicting how they work.”

Keep pushing Michelle.

Michelle

You can follow Michelle on Twitter at @EllaBellaBleu

To find out more about Michelle’s interests and work, visit  http://nyenyedzibio.com/index.html. 

Pieces of Home: A View of the Sunshine City

 

Harare, nicknamed the Sunshine City, is a city whose beauty is often overlooked.  When you’re on the ground, you never get a full view of the city and its skyline.  Instead, you experience the pothole-riddled roads, the constant throb of noise and traffic, and ever-present malfunctioning traffic light.  Whilst this Harare has its own chaotic glory, it’s refreshing to see a side of the Sunshine City that is not always celebrated or represented.

A View from the Top

 

It was from the 12th floor of the Causeway Building that I had the chance to see the view.  Overlooking Simon Muzenda Street (previously Fourth Street), it was a harmonious union of an ocean of sky and cloud with man-made blocks.  From the Sacred Heart Cathedral and Dominican Convent High School, to the Mukwati Building and St. George’s College peeking out in the distance, it was a picture that I’d never seen before.

 

The CBD at Dusk

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The city landscape changed as the sun gave way to night, its orange tinge still visible on the horizon.  Buildings and landmarks that I walked past without so much as an afterthought looked completely different to me in the dusk light.

 

It is not often that positive images of Harare and Zimbabwe in general are promoted.  There are beautiful pictures of jacarandas crowning Harare’s roads with a regal purple.  Images of Harare on the ground, the people and cars that populate the concrete space.  If you’re lucky, you stumble upon the odd photo of the Reserve Bank or some other well-known building.  Standing on the window ledge of Causeway Building’s 12th floor, it was a gratifying and humbling experience.

My city may be clogged with traffic, its road riddled with potholes, the streets full of pedestrian power, and the air tinged with the smell of smoke (a gift from the kombis), but I love Harare in all its perfect imperfection.  The Sunshine City is my home, forever and always.

 

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Chaka neMbira

Chaka Zinyemba’s family has long had connections with Canada.  His parents lived in the famously-cold North American country in the 80s, and his four sisters live, work, and study there.  So moving to Canada after his A Levels was almost a given for the young Zimbabwean.   Now an artist and musician currently living in Edminton,  Chaka draws on his Zimbabwean roots and family as, for inspiration for his work.

“IT WAS A NATURAL  PROGRESSION”

Life in Zimbabwe was good for Chaka.  The only boy in a family of five children, he was the Headboy at St.George’s College in 2007.  “I’m a Georgian through and through”, he says, having donned the red blazer since his primary school days at St. Michael’s.  It was at high school that Chaka first got interested in art.  He took it up as a subject at O Level, and although he didn’t take it further than this, his love for art continued, even after he left school.  As  grateful as he was for all that St. George’s, and Zimbabwe, had taught him, Chaka wanted a change of scenery.  “I was looking for something new, a new environment to start afresh.”  So it was off to the University of Alberta, where he graduated with a BA in Human Geography and Music.

 

 

“I SAW AN OPPORTUNITY, AND I GRABBED IT”

Chaka learnt how to play the mbira during the gap between the end of his A Levels, and the move to Canada.  However, it was only when he went to Canada that he started taking mbira seriously.  He has his new city to thank.  Thanks to an oil boom, Edmonton is becoming an economic and cultural hub, and Chaka wanted in on the action.   “If you have an idea, chances are you are the only one having that idea.”  With his art and his mbira skills, Chaka fit right into the Canadian city’s art life, but he does also work with Zimbabwean artists.  He’s just produced a CD with the help of two people: his cousin Free (“zvese zvese anobata!”), and  Peter Muparutsa (“he’s a mdara”).  Recorded at Shed Studios, the production was really a cross-Atlantic effort: Muparutsa worked together with a Canadian producer to produce the album.  Recorded in Zimbabwe, and sold in Edmonton, Chaka was able to successfully the two communities he knows and loves to create his own distinctive sound.

 

 

Even though he studied human geography and music at university, Chaka never forgot about his art.  Eight years after he dropped Art, he picked it up again, with his fiancée’s (now wife) encouragement.    “From the time I was born, I’ve been surrounded by women.”  This female presence extends to his artwork.  Dominated by strong, colourful portraits of different women, Chaka’s learnt to find his own style of painting, choosing not to get any formal training.  “As much as I respect institutions,” Chaka explains, “the fact that I’m not formally trained gives me more freedom.”  Having produced and sold several paintings, Chaka’s making a name for himself, and he hopes one day to come back home and show Zimbabwe how far he’s come.  “It’s always great to go back home and show ‘hey, this is what I’ve learnt and developed’.”

“I’M PASSIONATE ABOUT EVERYTHING I DO”

Hardworking and resolute, Chaka’s drive and creativity mirrors the efforts of many Zimbabweans living abroad.  “MaZimbo, takawanda!” He says, laughing at how even in Edmonton, there is a small but growing Zimbabwean community.  He’s glad that he can contribute to his country in any way he can, whether it be his with music, a paintbrush, or his geographic skills.  “We can tell our own story.  We have the tools and technology at our fingertips to create our own narrative.”  So Chaka sits, thinks, and he creates.

 

 

Contact Information:

http://mbirarenaissance.bandcamp.com/releases

Chaka nembira Studio

Instagram: @Zibeans

Facebook Page: Chaka ne Mbira

Twitter:   Chaka Zinyemba @Chakanembira