Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry has described the year 2019 as a “cruel year to the creative industry” after death claimed yet another arts luminary this week.
This comes as Stephen Chifunyise, who died on Monday, was granted a State-assisted funeral for his recognition and support in the arts industry.
He will be buried today at Greendale Cemetery.
Speaking at a funeral service held at Theatre in the Park, Minister Coventry paid tribute to Chifunyise whom she said was a father figure to the arts industry.
“What a cruel year 2019 has been! As we mourn as a nation and indeed the entire world, the sad passing on of a legend, father figure, mentor and coach whose influence in the performing arts genre, particularly theatre, dance, film reverberated throughout the entire world, we do so with a heavy heart.
“A heavy heart in that this year alone as Zimbabwe we sadly lost a number of luminaries in the likes of Dr Oliver ‘Tuku’ Mtukudzi, Dr Charles Mungoshi, Zimbabwe-born Dorothy Masuku and Johnny Clegg, both having later settled in South Africa,” said Minister Coventry.
She said that the void left by Chifunyise was too big to fill.
“The creative and arts industry has lost an icon in Uncle Steve, he was an influential member in the industry and the world at large and his works will be cherished forever. This is a great loss and the shoes to be filled are very large and to the family of the deceased we send our condolences,” she said.
The minister, who broke down during her speech, led a delegation of Government officials and industry luminaries that include Permanent Secretary in the office of Vice President Kembo Mohadi, Reverend Paul Damasani, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Dr Thokozile Chitepo, former Cabinet Minister Francis Nhema, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) Director Nicholas Moyo and Zimpapers chief executive officer Mr Pikirayi Deketeke, among others.
The ceremony also saw theatre and arts practitioners paying their last respects with a concert by Children Performing Arts Workshop (Chipawo) scheduled to take place tomorrow (Saturday).
NACZ director Mr Moyo urged arts practitioners to safeguard Zimbabwe’s heritage and culture by documenting their works and those of others.
“We should always keep records and document them for others to see in the future. We have what they taught us but we don’t have their voice to back it up,” he said.
Speaking at the same ceremony, Professor Dickson Mwansa of Zambia, who worked with Mr Chifunyise from 1969 to the early 1980s, said Zambia considered the Zimbabwean arts guru as “our international citizen”.
Prof Mwansa also informed the gathering that Zambians, will for two days, mourn by celebrating the works of Mr Chifunyise at the Playhouse in Lusaka today and tomorrow.
Meanwhile a delegation of 20 Zambian artistes that worked with Mr Chifunyise is on its way for the burial.