They celebrated the living and their late she-roes of the country. It was a thrilling function of renowned and upcoming women poets, singers and dancers as they showcased their talents with utmost gusto, with the response from the supportive audience motivating for any first-timers. The few men present will testify that the event needed not to be anti-men to be pro-women, a gathering of Zimbabwean artists bonding their sisterhood.
Among the famous artists present was the afro jazz diva, Dudu Manhenga and the acclaimed writer, Tsitsi Dangarembga. There were such moving performance from upcoming artists as songwriter and singers, Rina Mushonga, Thanda Richardson, Caroline Chipindu, Tanyaradzwa Todini popularly known to the other sisters as Sister Fire, South African rapper, Blackbird, poets Cynthia Marangwanda, Chido Manhombo among others.
Sistaz Open Mic was born in January 2007 as a special platform for emerging female artists and the project has gone a long way in moulding young talent, according to Manhenga.
“We have seen singers developing from scratch right in front of our eyes and we have had the likes of Vimbai Zimuto recording their first albums, Thanda Richardson is amazing. We have always made sure to make this event (Sistaz Open Mic) an afternoon show so that we have women coming in and going back home, on time to cook for their husbands. It is also a flexible time for the young artists who will be making their first appearances to come and get back home early,” she said.
The emerging Dutch-Zimbabwean pop star, Mushonga, believes women in Zimbabwe need to loosen free the star shining in their hearts to help build the arts industry.
“Women in the arts and those who aspire to be artists should know that they are a great part of Zimbabwe, they are amazingly resilient and will continue to be respected for supporting their families,” she said.
Mushonga (29), a Mutare based singer who performed at the Harare International Festival of Arts for the first time, this year, described her Afro-pop music as a folk rock fusion tangled with lyrics about Zimbabwe.
Hakuna magetsi (There is no electricity) was one song she moved the crowd with at Harare’s Book Café, last weekend. When Mushonga came back from Netherlands late 2008, she found a group of talented musicians from Mutare and together they have formed a band, Rina and the Zimfellas.
Her solo performance at the Sistaz Open Mic left many convinced Zimbabwe will have her own Tracey Chapman in Mushonga, but a whole lot energetic Chapman who knows how to keep her crowd rocking with the sound of her guitar.
The house was also set ablaze by Richardson and Sister Fire with their Jah Rasta Farian reggae music. The energy from the two women artists saw the Café ballooned into a tantalizing gospel show, at some moment as Fire preached of “One Love.”
“I’m hurt to see people discriminating others just because they may have grew up in an irie (happy) family, there should not be such a thing as street kids; we are all the same. One Love sistaz,” she encouraged.
Marangwanda, in her poem “woman” recited of the new independent woman of Zimbabwe whom some part of the society has chosen to call a feminist.
“She is a lioness hunting for the Promised Land through a creative path; they call her feminists she calls herself independent. Respect her, this new woman of Zimbabwe, heart of this nation; African woman, foundation of this land,” she called at the stage.
The show has become a popular space for young women who come out to perform in this no-pressure zone, finding encouragement, direction and a solid support system from established women artists of Zimbabwe, who fully support the programme, since its establishment.
Manhombo, a 19-year-old upcoming poet who performed her poem in public for the first time told The Zimbabwean she was “nervous at first but the audience’s reception helped calm down the nerves.”