The legend of Katarina. . . and the evolution of Zim showbiz’s sex symbols

Elizabeth Taderera “Katarina” (inset) and Safirio “Mukadota” Madzikatire

Elizabeth Taderera “Katarina” (inset) and Safirio “Mukadota” Madzikatire

Bruce Ndlovu
If one is looking for an example of the stage prowess of Katarina, Safirio “Mukadota” Madzikatire’s livewire stage lieutenant, a simple search on YouTube is enough.

Upon typing the words Mukadota and Katarina, one quickly finds out from the number of views the video has accumulated that several thousand have also travelled the same road down memory lane, no doubt also searching for the legend of Katarina (born Elizabeth Taderera).

Many a youngster would have heard their elders recall with fondness the exploits of the light skinned beauty with a Colgate smile and a glowing red lipstick to match. A grainy old video is the only evidence one has that the wizened old heads had every right to be mesmerised back in their day.

The clip finds both Mukadota and Katarina in exemplary form. Mukadota, partly bald and decked out in a dazzling blue and black outfit, was no doubt the leader of his band. However, whenever Katarina’s moment to shine came, he never hesitated to withdraw and let his trusted lieutenant lead the forces.

And lead she did. When Katarina danced, it seemed like her provocative and rhythmic stomps dictated how the band behind her played and not the other way round. She seemed to dictate the tune. On stage she was an enticing mass of swinging flesh, crowned by a smile that seemed permanently stitched to her face. Embroidered to show how much she loved her craft.

Only a jealous or scorned lover would deny that Katarina assumed a python-like grip on men when those hips of hers started swinging. A seductive temptress yet laden with respect for her female form. The name of her dances were as interesting as the woman who invented them and on stage she would roll them out one by one; methodically.

One was called ZESA, no doubt when the country’s power utility was still consistent and reliable, while another was called Tiger Fish. When she was stomping on stage, all of these weirdly named dances would make sense. On that stage Elizabeth Taderera, her real name, would die.

Over the course of a few minutes, Katarina, face drenched with sweat and her chest heaving, would be born. During Mukadota’s shows, Katarina was the trump card and one could argue that she was an attraction that could have prospered on her own had she left the safety of Mukadota’s nest. The two were an irresistible combination with a proven track record and a reasonable number of hits.

Songs like “KwaHunyani”, “Ndichatenga Yangu” and “Usandisiye” showed that they could easily take and transport their hilarious and electric chemistry from the stage to the studio. While Mukadota, a man blessed with the ability to crack a Zimbabwean’s ribs almost at will, is a legend that will never to be forgotten, Katarina is very often a footnote that pops up when his career is mentioned.

In her later years, when the fame and fortune of showbiz had deserted years after Mukadota’s death, she made a living as a waiter before also following her beloved Dickson, Mukadota’s persona, to the afterlife. It was an unceremonious end to a life that had, during its prime, given Zimbabweans a taste of pure stage wizardry.

Katarina was that rare breed of woman that comes along once in a while in Zimbabwean showbiz. An electric female performer who is fully aware of her seductive qualities. In other parts of the world, such women are common enough. When the topic of industry defining sex symbols is brought up, Hollywood always points to the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner or Pam Grier.

These and other women electrified American stages and brought undeniable sex appeal to both big and small screen. “Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring,” Monroe was once quoted as saying.

Decades after she passed away, Monroe is credited for inspiring a brigade of female stars who unashamedly flaunted their alluring womanhood. Sending wisps of oestrogen to their legions of adoring fans. And they are never boring. From the exotic and sensual Halle Berry to the provocative Rihanna, all can trace their DNA to the tribe that the likes of Monroe pioneered.

Back at home, Zimbabweans have never been too fond of women that go beyond the bounds of what is considered decent. As a country that prides itself for ubuntu, Zimbabwe is generally a conservative nation and woman that show too much skin are usually frowned upon. However, a few descendants of Katarina have managed to climb the ladder despite the conservative tastes, real or feigned, of their countrymen.

Certainly Sandra Ndebele in her prime, seems to be reading directly from the book of Katarina. Her act was a carbon copy of the late vixen’s on-stage persona except, Katarina, she was no one’s. With her “assets” Sandy, as Ndebele is popular known, was the closest that country had got to another Katarina when she emerged on the scene in the earliest years of the 21st century.

Indeed the very ground she danced on seemed to quake when Sandy’s thighs and hips started shaking. However, she too felt the wrath of Zimbabweans who looked down on her act despite the hundreds of men who seemed to drool at her sight whether on screen or during her shows. “People have always had something (bad) to say but that has never bothered me.

I’ve never been troubled by the comments people make because I’m focused on what I do, regardless of what they say” she said in an interview. That single-minded determination has allowed Ndebele to stand the test of time as other women stumble all around her.

The likes of Lyn “Eriza” Magodo have also emerged in recent years to show that a good looking woman endowed with the right features will always catch the nation’s eye given a chance. Jah Prayzah has also been the gift that has kept giving, with his Third Generation Band staffed with woman who never fail to catch the eye when they start moving on stage.

From Gonyeti to Excavator, voluptuous performers have seemed to awaken the ghost of Katarina once in a while. Ammara Brown has also emerged as an appealing seductress, and with her fame increasing with every hit, her reign seems destined to last a little while longer at least.

As Ammara and other vixens today shine and continue to push the boundaries of what is acceptable, it is important to reflect and remember the vivacious Katarina and the spell she wove on Zimbabweans once upon a time.

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