"It is vital at this time that Zimbabwe retains a creative connection with the rest of the world. The work of Developing Artists is essential in maintaining this connection."
Manuel Bagorro, Director of The Harare International Festival of the Arts
Having begun as a small grassroots mentoring programme in 2004 the Zimbabwean project grew to such an extent that 2006 saw the presentation in The National Gallery of Zimbabwe of a new play Territory as part of The Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA). Two local actors, Victor Mavedzenge and Michael Kudakwashe, were selected and work began on creating a play based upon stories from their own lives. Following HIFA Territory toured to The Edinburgh Fringe Festival and The Flowers East Gallery and Artsdepot in London.
In May 2007 the Broadway actor Kevin Loreque and The Northern Stage Theatre Company from Vermont, USA went out to teach and perform at HIFA. The show I Am My Own Wife subsequently toured to The Assembly Rooms as part of The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. A new play Crocodile was also performed at HIFA using an entirely local cast. In July one of the actors from Crocodile, Blessing Hungwe, travelled to America to join with two Mexican actors from another Developing Artists project and a professional American cast to perform Ovid's Tales of Metamorphoses at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. Whilst in America Blessing also took part in a staged reading of Crocodile at Northern Stage starring actress Lisa Harrow.
In 2008 Michael Kudakwashe travelled to America to appear in the first professional out-of-New York production of Alan Bennett's The History Boys. Then in 2009 a full production of Oedipus Tyrannus was staged at HIFA involving some 40 local artists and creatives. The charity also sent a production assistant from the UK to work for HIFA in the run-up to and for the duration of the festival. In 2010 this success was repeated with a locally cast and rehearsed production of Eduardo Erba's play Marathon, which was staged in Harare and Bulawayo.
"Developing Artists gave me the experience and the opportunity that has been fundamental to my career and life. But, not only that, I managed to cement friendships based on mutual respect of our differing talents and personalities with people from all walks of life."
In 2011 a new play by Developing Artists Apprentice Blessing Hungwe, Burn Mukwerekwere Burn, premiered at HIFA. It was directed by Giles Ramsay who also ran a series of educational and practical workshops whilst in Harare. The five man show received rave reviews and was extended for a further run at the Alliance Francaise in Harare, and at Reps Theatre, before touring around Zimbabwe.
In 2012 the charity devised another new play with apprentice Blessing Hungwe, When Angels Weep.
When Angels Weep is a scorching tale of lost youth, greed and familial betrayal. When 13year-old Sarita is sold in to sexual bondage by her favorite uncle, her childhood comes to a screeching stop. Fate brings her back to her village 17 years later, forcing her to face a past she buried to survive...
The play featured award winning Zimbabwean actor Michael Kudakwashe, actress Priviledge Mutendera and the musical talents of Patrick Tembo, Brezhnev Guvheya and Rumbidzai Karize. It premiered at HIFA 2012 before touring round the country visiting local community centres, theatres and schools.
Extract from Burn Mukwerekwere Burn
Continuing the collaboration with local writer Blessing Hungwe, in 2013 a production of his latest play, Looking Into The Abyss, was staged at The Harare Festival and then toured Zimbabwe under the auspices of The British Council. In 2014 the charity staged a production of Jean Genet's harrowing play The Maids at HIFA starring UK based Zimbabwe actress Chipo Chung and two local Zimbabwean actors - John Pfumojena and Tichaona Mutore.
"The most important thing I learnt from Developing Artists is that no dream is too big."
In 2015 The National Theatre of Mannheim, Germany invited 6 Zimbabwean actors to re-stage Blessing Hungwe's play Burn Mukwerekwere Burn at their Schiller Festival, directed by the charity's founder Giles Ramsay. Blessing Hungwe also travelled to London to take part in The Royal Court Theatre's International Young Playwright scheme.
Still from Burn Mukwerekwere Burn
2016 AND BEYOND
The charity is currently working on developing a new project for HIFA 2017 (the festival has recently become bi-annual) which we hope to tour around the region. For further information email firstname.lastname@example.org.