artistic achievements – the 2000 episodic Studio 263 on Zimbabwe Television and on DStv’s AfricaMagic and now Zimbabwean classic “Neria”.
For one who rose from humble beginnings and without the advantage of accessing colleges and university education in theatre and film, Godwin Mawuru’s achievements in the theatre and audio-visual industries are no mean achievements that can escape the attention of the nation. So far, it seems that Zimbabwe has not woken up to the realisation of the enormous contributions to the development of Zimbabwean theatre and film practice made by this departed hero of Zimbabwean arts.
It is inappropriate for us in the arts sector, to fete his passing on with gloriously worded condolence messages when tremendous opportunities existed for Zimbabwe to celebrate with him his indefatigable contribution to the development of Zimbabwean performing arts especially the audio-visual industry in his three decades of full-time commitment to the creative industry with all its current state of poor national recognition and very low economic status.
Therefore, whatever statement has been issued to the general public concerning the passing away of this great performer and hero in our audio-visual industry can only help us to appreciate our national loss and the lessons he has left us to follow. My statement, as someone who took note of Mawuru’s entry into the theatre arts scene soon after independence through Ben Sibenke-led People’s Theatre Company, is in many respects, not an obituary on Godwin Mawuru, in the sense of being a news article about the passing away of Godwin Mawuru or a detailed memorial account of his life, but a message of appreciation that I hope all those in the theatre and audio-visual industry will share.
It is a statement that is “seconding the motion” that was contained in the condolence message to the Mawuru family, the arts fraternity and nation by the board of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe upon receiving the sad news of his demise and which stated: “The arts industry is left poorer by the sudden departure of Mawuru. He has left a void in the film industry. We trust fellow artistes will emulate him in their quest to get the film industry in Zimbabwe appreciated across our borders and beyond with productions of high standard.”
The crisis of being a Zimbabwean filmmaker who dies this early after leading in the successful production of 2 000 episodes of a popular soap opera shown on national television was highlighted by Mawuru himself in an interview with Silence Charumbira of The Sunday Mail when Studio 263 turned nine years old in its constant running as a popular programme on Zimbabwe Television.
Charumbira solicited for information in his question about the economic benefits that accrued to the cast and Mawuru himself. Mawuru said: “But for the three years I was in South Africa lecturing film was the time I conceded that Zimbabwe has talent even way more than South Africa. Some of my students are the ones doing great work on the likes of Isidingo and Generations, just to mention a few. But the difference comes in the form of resources. The whole production of Studio 263 combined is not enough to pay just one South African actor in Isidingo.”
Mawuru’s decade of commitment to producing for Zimbabwe Television Studio 263, stands out as pure and unadulterated national service that is worth national recognition expressed at the highest level of national leadership. Producing cultural products that help to sustain programming of a national broadcaster should not be taken as a hobby but a heroic commitment to promoting a sustainable Zimbabwean cultural identity and self-reliance.
A nation that appreciates or recognises the value of culture to the attainment of wholesome national development cannot fail to recognise the contribution made by Mawuru and all those who laboured with him to have Studio 263 occupy a central place in television entertainment that is “proudly Zimbabwean”.
So, what lessons have we learnt from Mawuru’s three-decade career in the theatre and film industry? This space is not adequate to narrate, using his theatre and films products, the lessons the arts fraternity should learn from what Mawuru did in his short life.
The first lesson our young performing artistes can learn is the value of gaining artistic competence from apprenticeship. Mawuru was apprenticed by such theatre gurus as Ben Sibenke, Kathy Kuleya and Carl Dorn who embraced his inquisitive mind by offering him opportunities to put his hand on different aspects of theatre in that powerhouse known a People’s Theatre Company.
His next port of call in apprenticeship was the period of handling television cameras and other television production gadgets at the National Sports Stadium where he grabbed the opportunity offered by the company that operated the giant televisions screen in the giant stadium.
His six months attachment to the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal was another crucial step in learning the art of filmmaking through timely and appropriate apprenticeship. When he returned home, Mawuru put into practice not just the filmmaking ideas he had gathered but began a process of using his production house as a solid base for the apprenticeship of young film enthusiasts in all aspects of film production.
Mawuru is a hallmark of achieving success in the arts by perseverance, self-belief and excessive self- value. He was one of the two young Zimbabwean film enthusiasts to attract the confidence of John and Louise Riber and Ben Zulu of the Media for Development Trust to direct the phenomenal film project “Neria” that featured “godfathers” of Zimbabwean theatre.
The other young Zimbabwean film enthusiast who won the same confidence of John and Louise Riber was Isaac Mabikwa, who directed “More Time” – another classic Zimbabwean feature film of the 90s. Mawuru and Mabikwa must has shown to John and Louise Riber incredible hunger for success, the willingness to learn and ability to persevere against all odds.
One other lesson we call lean from Mawuru’s life in the performing arts industry is his ability to appreciate and positively use personal contacts he made in various film projects such as film festivals such as the Southern African Film Festival which Harare hosted for almost a decade and which attracted filmmakers from different parts of Africa and African Diaspora. He also effectively used contacts he made in film projects he was involved to secure resources. One such valuable contact was with Kubi Indi, who featured in “Neria” and later produced “ I Am the Future” which he directed.
Mawuru did not forget the people who helped him to appreciate the art of theatre in the early days of career in the performing arts industry, such as Karl Dorn, who sadly passed away last year, but who played a major role as a critic of Studio 263 and who offered his base for workshops on story development for the soap opera.
Bringing Ben Sibenke into the Studio 263 was Mawuru’s gesture of saying “thank you” to a man who introduced him to theatre and whose never- ageing acting talent had been ignored by many local film makers. Mawuru is an example of a performing arts practitioner who had an eye for young talent and who took it upon himself to develop such talents into proficient filmmakers. Mawuru will be greatly missed. May his soul rest in peace.
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