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Annemarie Quinn – On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking

Moving to Malawi has taught me so much, both in my personal and professional life. I’ve listened to chord progressions, harmonies and rhythms that I’ve never heard before…

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Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika Magazine

From taking up music at the age of 7, to performing her first gig at the age of 14, Annemarie Quinn, a musician from the U.K, graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with a First Class Degree in Music. She has performed at a number of venues and festivals around the U.K, and regularly featured on BBC Introducing.

In 2016 she and her husband decided they wanted a change, so they packed up their life and moved to Malawi, Africa! From the moment she arrived with her guitar, she dived straight into the country’s music industry, and has spent the last 4 years composing, collaborating and recording with the most amazing Malawian musicians to create her upcoming album, Blue Sky Thinking!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika Magazine
Blue Sky Thinking Album Art

Since moving to Malawi, she has also performed at Lake Of Stars (for three consecutive years), Tumaini Festival, Sand Music Festival, Nkhotakota Music Festival, Blantyre Arts Festival, and venues across the country including Jacaranda Cultural Centre, Grittah’s Camp, Kwa Haraba and Mayoka Village, to name a few. “It’s been the most incredible experience having immersed myself in this country’s beautiful culture, and I have been so welcomed into the Malawian arts community”, she says.

We caught up with her to learn more about her work in Malawi and her soon to be released album.

“I found music to be such a release, and a way to express myself. I’ve always been fascinated by how something so emotive and beautiful can’t be seen, but only heard…”

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika Magazine
Live Music Video Shoot – Omex Chimpeni on Hand Drum, Anthony Spriyano on Percussion and Backing Vocals, and Stan Phiri on Bass.

When did you realise that music was what you wanted to do with your life?

I’ve always loved music. I grew up in a home that was filled with music, all day everyday! My parents would always have the radio or CDs playing, I grew up surrounded by the likes of Paul Simon, U2, Bob Marley, The Drifters, Bruce Springsteen – our house was never quiet. I took up the violin at the age of 7 and began singing in my school choir. Even at such a young age, I found music to be such a release and a way to express myself. I’ve always been fascinated by how something so emotive and beautiful can’t be seen, but only heard – this made me want to explore further. I studied music through school, took as many instrument lessons as I could get, and I just knew that this was what I wanted to do. I then went on to study music in university and learnt so much – and that’s the thing – we never stop learning. I think sometimes people think that if they’ve learnt an instrument, then ‘that’s it! I don’t have to practice anymore!’ But the truth is, we should never stop pushing ourselves to learn. Moving to Malawi has taught me so much, both in my personal and professional life. I’ve listened to chord progressions, harmonies and rhythms that I’ve never heard before, and welcomed it into my compositions – it’s been wonderful!

What or whom would you say has been the most important influence when it comes to your music?

The most important thing is to be open minded – I remember my guitar teacher telling me to listen to all different kinds of music; whether you like it or not, it’s important to form critical opinions rather than just ‘this sounds good, this sounds bad’. There’s something to be learnt from all different genres of music, so listen to as much as you can!

As I mentioned, my parents played the most awesome music to me which definitely had a subconscious effect on me. My all-time favourite musician has to be Paul Simon. My Dad is a huge fan, so we’d always listen together. Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ was my soundtrack growing up; at the time I loved it, but had no idea just how much of an inspiration it would be to me. ‘Graceland’ is still to this day, my most favourite album. That’s what’s amazing about music; each part of your life can be mapped by the songs you were immersed in at the time, and as soon as you listen to them, you’re transported back to that moment.

As someone who studied Classical Music, would you advise upcoming artists who have the opportunity to do so, to take the time to study music formally as well? Advantages and/or disadvantages?

For me, music is a balance between natural talent and studies. Formally studying music is brilliant, especially music theory, as you’re able to understand not only what you’re playing, but why the notes fit together, allowing your compositions to progress. But studying can only take you so far; passion and talent is also needed! I’ve seen the most incredible musicians here in Malawi who can’t read a single note of music, yet they’ve managed to build themselves a guitar from an oil can and bicycle brakes and have taught themselves chords. How amazing! But often without music theory, it can be difficult to progress further. So for me I think it’s important to have a balance of both elements, which then allows the other to excel. Nature vs. Nurture – that’s a difficult one. Don’t get me wrong, I think you can have a natural talent, but unless you nurture and develop it, there’s only so far you’ll go. I’ve always loved music and sure, it came naturally to me, but I’ve worked SO hard over the past 15 years to get to where I am now. Extra classes, self-studies, revision, exams, there’s so much that’s needed to help yourself grow and succeed, other than just ‘talent’.  

What inspired you to take the leap of faith in 2016 and move to Malawi to work on your album, here, out of any other place you could have gone to in the world?

We just wanted a change! We were living in a part of UK that had recently flooded with bad rains so we just thought, why not, if we don’t try, we’ll never know. I visited The Gambia when I was 17 years old on a school trip and was totally blown away. I fell in love with feeling out of my comfort zone and experiencing new cultures. I always knew I’d love to go back to Africa at some point! My husband, Andy, who teaches at an International School here in Malawi, had never been to Africa before, so we just went for it and have zero regrets! But I really do believe everything happens for a reason, and you make your own luck. We’ve had a brilliant time here in Malawi, but we’ve put a lot of hard work in too, and made sure we’ve made the most of every opportunity – life is what you make it.

What has your move to Malawi proved wrong in terms of any misconceptions you may have had prior to you actually living here?

I remember as the date for leaving the UK came closer, I felt nervous. I was leaving everything I’d known – family, friends, all the links and work I’d built up. Would anyone be interested in playing with me?! I was this random British girl rocking up with my guitar – I had these big ideas about recording an album, but didn’t actually know any musicians, and hadn’t written any of the songs yet! I did as much research as I could before leaving the UK about music in Malawi, but couldn’t find much online. Fortunately, I was booked to perform at Lake Of Stars before I moved so I was looking forward to that. But as soon as I arrived in Malawi and started to get to know artists, I realised there was SO much music happening here! There wasn’t much online but I’d managed to find out what was going on! It was brilliant, before I knew it I had met so many musicians and was booked to perform at all different festivals and events around the country. You’ve just got to work hard and get sucked in!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika Magazine
Recording on my Lowden Guitar at The Music Farm, UK.

You have raised a lot of money for charity, and you also give of your time by teaching music at Jacaranda school for orphans in Blantyre. How has that experience impacted you, not only as an artist but as a person?

Whilst living here in Malawi, I feel it is important to help in a sustainable way, rather than handouts or quick fixes. I was first introduced to Jacaranda School For Orphans in 2017 after visiting and performing at Jacaranda Cultural Centre (JCC is linked with the school and helps to raise funds for them). I visited the school and was totally blown away by the work they do. Straight away I knew I just had to get involved and help with the music programme, it’s the least I can do whilst I’m living here. Over the past 2 years I have been working with the Jacaranda students, teaching music theory, guitar and violin, song writing and vocal training. The students have the most amazing voices, and it’s been such a privilege to have them sing on my album. Back to the nature vs. nurture comment – these children have the most incredible natural talent, I don’t ever want to alter that, all I have done is given them the tools and knowledge to further themselves and pass these skills on to other students, creating a sustainable model.

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika Magazine
Recording with The Jacaranda School For Orphans

I am also co-founder of the NGO, Music Against Malaria, working with Musician Code Sangala, to raise funds and awareness in the fight against Malaria, whilst promoting and preserving the cultural heritage of Malawi. It’s an absolute honour to contribute what I can to this work.  

Your words “Do less, but well,” stuck with me. You spoke about focusing more on sustainable ways of helping those in need. What would that look like to you and what would you say to other people who have the desire to help but are not too sure on how to go about it?

(This is more linked to the album) I believe this to be such a powerful phrase to live by. It’s not saying to make your dreams or goals smaller, but rather to break down what you’d like to achieve, start small and take manageable steps to what you imagine in a conscious and kind way to yourself. If I arrived in Malawi and tried to record this album in the first couple of months, it never would have worked, and I would have felt like I’d failed before I even started. No, the best things in life take time, put the work in, and do the best you can everyday, that’s all you can do, and what will be will be. But that’s not me saying sit back and wait for opportunities to come to you – definitely not! It’s great to let things naturally develop, but there’s also nothing wrong in giving it a good push in the right direction too!

(This is more linked to the charity work) I  believe there are so many people who want to help and I’m in a great position to facilitate this sustainably whilst living here. I really wanted to create a clear and transparent grass roots NGO that shows people exactly where their donations are going. And I think that’s what people like, the transparency. As humans, we like to see results, and our efforts being appreciated. So rather than donating money into a big pot, I’ve been able to follow the donations through and show donors exactly where their contributions are going to, whether that’s to Music Against Malaria, or The Jacaranda School For Orphans. For example, some friends from the UK sent clothes and stationary for Jacaranda, and when the items arrived here I took them straight to the school and donated them personally, sending photos to the donors as evidence. This creates a personal connection and it’s a great feeling for donors to see what they’ve given making a direct change. So many people want to help, and I’m in such a great position to facilitate these donations!

How has working with artists that may not have the best in terms of resources or equipment affected the way you view the process of making music or creating art?

The recording process has been super interesting – each recording session has a story of some kind, ones of laughter, friendships and struggle, transport breaking down, power cuts, musicians unable to make the session due to malaria, and some turning up with malaria and recording anyway – you name it, it happened! But where there are problems, there are always solutions to be found, and Malawians are amazing at that!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika Magazine
Visiting Lazarus’ home after our hotel room recording session

The Blue Sky Thinking album has been recorded in a number of different locations, mostly in the studio I built in my home here in Blantyre, which we’ve named Pamodzi Studio (a collective word in Chichewa meaning community). For my studio, I wanted to support local Malawian traders in its construction, so I used local carpenters to build two huge baffles, creating a vocal booth, and covered the walls in foam and chitenje. We also recorded Ituma Music Productions for drum kit, The Music Farm Studios in UK for some of the acoustic guitar and on location around the Malawi! For example, I packed up the studio and travelled to Nkhata Bay to record Lusubilo Band, right on the beautiful shores of Lake Malawi, and it was amazing! We recorded The Jacaranda School For Orphans in their school hall, and met with Lazarus in Lilongwe, where we made a vocal booth out of a mattress in a hotel to record his vocals!  I began collaborating with Faith Mussa just as Covid 19 hit Malawi, so we weren’t able to meet physically; so instead I sent him the tracks, and he recorded his parts in his studio in Lilongwe and sent them to me. There’s always a way!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika Magazine
Recording with Lusubilo Band on the shore of Lake Malawi

You have a few notable Malawian artists such as Faith Mussa on the list of people you have collaborated with. How much of an influence do you think this has had on the overall sound of Blue Sky thinking?

I really wanted to take my time with this album and get to know musicians, rather than just a feature. I feel like I’ve made some great friends throughout the recording, and I’m so grateful to each and every artist. Blue Sky Thinking features over 40 musicians including Faith Mussa, Code Sangala, Lusubilo Band, Agorosso, Goma Nyondo, Kennedy Phiri, Jacaranda School For Orphans, Patrick Chimbewa, amongst others.  Rather than just diving straight into the music, I took the time to get to know musicians – we met for jam sessions, hung out and played gigs together. I fee that that’s when the true collaboration comes; when everyone feels comforatble with each other. I’ve felt so welcomed into Malawi’s music scene, it’s been an honour to have worked and performed with such amazing musicians. People have reached out from all over the country to let me know how much they enjoy my music, and it means so much to me to hear that. I’ve tried my best to make my music accessible to both Malawian and international audiences, I’ve even added some Chichewa in my album too, with one of my tracks titled ‘Osadandaula’!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika Magazine
In rehearsals with Faith Mussa

I’ve always been aware of cultural appropriation – I didn’t set out to write an album that sounds ‘African’ – I’m a British, so why would I do that?! Haha! But rather to explore and create a balance between my singer songwriter sound with a flare of the Malawian vibe. When I started explaining this idea to people, I was met with nothing but love, encouragement and enthusiasm by the Malawians. The artists I’ve collaborated with are all so different, but equally inspiring. They’ve brought ideas and created parts I never could have imagined. I sometimes feel collaboration is seen as a sign of weakness, that you can’t do it on your own. But I believe this couldn’t be more wrong, we are stronger and more efficient together. It’s been amazing to watch these musicians bring their own flare, styles and ideas to each piece of the album, I’m so grateful to every single artist that has been a part of Blue Sky Thinking, it’s been a celebration of merging cultures; we had the most amazing time creating it, and I hope you can hear that in the music!

Blue Sky Thinking is essentially the bringing together of two different worlds to create a space in which they coexist. Is this album anything close to what you first imagined it would be?

Good question! It’s funny, at the beginning I don’t think I really knew what I wanted the record to be like! I had ideas, but never thought the outcome would be what we have created. It fills me with so much pride and gratitude to listen to the songs, it’s everything I could have imagined and more! I think the title ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ sums this up well; the title has two meanings; firstly, to create and think without limitations, and if we want to live limitlessly, we must be daring. I feel this represents the creation of the album itself – when I arrived in Malawi I knew I wanted to create an album but didn’t know a single person. So putting yourself out there and working hard pays off, and it’s been the most amazing journey!

And secondly the phrase ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ means, to always look for the positives, a dedication to the incredible determination, optimism and innovation of Malawians I’ve had the honour of experiencing whilst living here.

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika Magazine
Lake Of Stars with The Jacaranda School For Orphans and Lazarus

When we spoke, the album had just been sent to the UK for Mastering, (the post-production process of optimizing music and preparing it for distribution). After 4 years and over 40 Malawian artists on it, are you ready to finally listen back to the labour of love that is Blue Sky thinking?

Oh, so ready!! There are so many emotions – excitement, gratitude, relief, nerves, I just can’t wait to hear what people think about it, I really hope you like it! I just want people to love it just as much as we do and to enjoy it – we certainly enjoyed creating it and surely that’s the whole point; why do something if you don’t enjoy it?

‘Music’ is so vast and there are so many incredible albums out there, I’m honoured to be adding my work into the mix. It’s scary, but I’ve always approached the music industry as a place to carving out your own space rather than feeling it’s a competition- there’s room for everyone to succeed.  

I really hope when you listen to Blue Sky Thinking, that first and foremost you enjoy the music itself! But I also invite you to take a moment to find out a bit more about who and exactly what you’re listening, the stories behind the songs, the recording process and the Malawian artists featured- each are so different yet equally inspiring with incredible stories, which I feel will enhance the connection to the record.

Blue Sky Thinking has been shaped by the bustle of a thriving Malawian market, the beats of a bao game, the sunsets over the national parks, choirs singing on the back of pick-up trucks and the constant push and pull between loving this amazing country and respecting its culture whilst staying true to my own. I can’t believe it’s finally done, I’ve loved every single moment!

Annemarie Quinn - On Moving to Malawi, & Her New Album, Blue Sky Thinking Asante Afrika Magazine
Rehearsals with Goma Nyondo, Kennedy Phiri and Vincent Manyozo

They say music is a reflection of self; do you think the album represents who you are at this moment in time and, is the rest of the world ready for it as well?

I couldn’t agree with this more! Music is definitely a reflection of yourself and that’s exactly what Blue Sky Thinking is. It represents the most amazing chapter of my life living in Malawi. Blue Sky Thinking is four years of experience, emotion and the total immersion into a country’s culture, connecting and merging humans from all walks of life. I hope people will get lost in the in the stories of this album and hope the music takes you somewhere you’ve never been before. I hope this album brings you as much joy listening to it as we had creating it!

Blue Sky Thinking – available to download on all major platforms on 22nd January 2020 (Pre-order Saturday 12th December)

Connect with Annemarie via her website, www.annemariequinn.co.uk and via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – @AnnemarieQuinn

Interviewed by Bongani Mahlangu, Twitter: @Originalboi_b

new single osadandaula now out




Features

Tanto Wavie | Founder of TrapSu, A Genre of Vibes and Reflection

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Tanto Wavie | Founder of TrapSu, A Genre of Vibes and Reflection Asante Afrika Magazine

The Zimbabwean music landscape has evolved in a big way during the past years we have witnessed the creation of new genres and new sounds. From the country’s infancy right through its maturity, we have been blessed with genres such as Sungura, Museve, urban groves, Zim dancehall. These sounds have played a crucial role in defining the culture and Identity of the Zimbabwean people. Our feature artist has done a remarkable job of fusing the sound of old, and the new sound of the times. We introduce to you Tanto Wavie

Zimbabwe is a country known for its hardships, corruption, and bad press overall. Through the midst of all these negatives, Zimbabwean art still thrives. As much as it is not lucrative for the collective at large most artists still find a way to release and make music. This one artist is no exception, Tanto Wavie is making waves through his music, no pun intended.

I first heard of Tanto a couple of years ago through a random YouTube suggestion of his song John Chibadura. This song is a tribute to the late John Badura a famous Zimbabwean Sungura artist whose music defined the fabric of the times in the early 80s to 90s, a legendary figure etched in the Mount Rushmore of Zimbabwean music greats. The intense base guitar Sungura fused with hip hop and Trap beats in a genius and flawless composition made me an instant fan. This was the beginning of a beautiful sonic relationship between me and this muso.

All his records laced with the vibrant and high-energy producer tag at the beginning of each song “chi beat cha Tanto,” translation “Tanto’s beat”, you know you are in for a treat. Many have tried to fuse or sample Sungura or Museve, only to produce mediocre results, leaving much to be desired. On the other hand, Tanto has successfully found the secret formula to this magic, in his cauldron he cooks up a concoction of a new brand of Trap and Sungura, cleverly dubbed Trapsu. He creates timeless jams I believe are still yet to be discovered and pieces that will echo through the passage of time. 

With releases such as Sungura Museve a pure non-skip album that features stand-out tracks such as Mudhipisi, translation a “cop out” or “straight up fool always killing the vibe for everybody”. Tanto narrates a story of an individual who’s always messing everything up when people are trying to live their best lives and have a good time. In true Sungura fashion, the songs on the project are very descriptive and comedic at best but trust me! the man’s projects are no joke, he is one to be taken seriously.

Tanto Wavie | Founder of TrapSu, A Genre of Vibes and Reflection Asante Afrika Magazine
SUNGURA MUSEVE – TANTO WAVIE

The album is also graced with Gems such as 007, Dzinga Munyama, Mabhachi ft Denim Woods with a killer verse, Heart Yangu a soulful Trap+Sungura+RNB just to name a few. After Sungura Museve he has dropped a number of projects and singles all bangers. The future is bright for Tanto and personally I can’t wait for the new drop this Friday “Wake Chaiye”.

In closing, I believe an artist like Tanto Wavie is the missing piece to the future of the Zimbabwean music scene. He not only embodies the heritage and legacy of a sound that carried and groomed a whole nation, but he also brings the energy of the present-day with artistic integrity and vigor. Tanto is one to most definitely watch out for. Zimbabwe, Africa are you ready???

Tanto Wavie | Founder of TrapSu, A Genre of Vibes and Reflection Asante Afrika Magazine

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Features

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!!

An interview with Moonchild Rye, founder of Moonchild District. An arts movement in Zimbabwe.

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Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine

HAZEL Q. LIFA

Creativity of the brain is low key blasphemy…

What do you do when the world doesn’t make it easy for you to do what you are best at? Give up and call it a day? A young poet from Zimbabwe turned to the avenue of innovation and created a space for himself and other creative like himself. For many creatives in Zimbabwe finding a space let alone an uncensored environment where one can express themselves and create is a challenge.

The African nation’s economic challenges have left the Arts sector in a bit of a bind as creatives are finding it hard to connect with their peers; find welcoming communities and realise financial gain from their artistry. Thus sadly many are leaving their art for more stable professions. But the resilience of poets like Moonchild Rye aka He of the Moon formerly known as Prince Rayanne Chidzvondo has led to the birth of a powerful alliance of creatives and a worthwhile business. 

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine
Moonchild Rye

Zimbabwe is heavily talented, the only problem is, how can the art industry thrive in a state where no other industry is functioning. It’s not a shock when people won’t pay a $2 ticket to hear you perform, to a majority, it’s soft life, a luxury they cannot afford.

According to Moonchild Rye, “The system is also very conservative, you find that they’re still hiring Albert Nyathi years after his prime has long been established, do you not think we have other poets in Zim? Either way, Moonchild District will be the change to all this. We will make it hard for them to ignore us.”

Poetry is not my calling; I called it in order to find ways to heal myself.

Moonchild rye

Moonchild’s poetic journey (pun intended) began as early as grade 7. Despite imaginable discouragement from family Moonchild Rye remained optimistic. Moonchild Rye proudly states, “I speak the audacity of greatness into my bones; my ancestor’s whispered a talent into my marrow that sings in my head and heart, my hand dances when it writes. I am the voice of a generation and the generation of this voice.”

Moonchild Rye started off his fast-growing arts movement in May of 2021 with Moonchild District’s Night of May, which was a huge success followed by a slew of sold-out Moonchild District events. We caught up with the poet/media practitioner/digital marketer/content creator.

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine
Moonchild Rye with guests at a Moonchild District event.

Can you take us through your journey to realizing poetry is your calling?

I started writing when I was 12yrs and performed for the first time for a crowd at a Highlands Primary School’s Academic Eve. Poetry is not my calling; I called it in order to find ways to heal myself. Writing is a process of healing, recollection and establishing a path back to myself. It is a lie if you ever hear someone say, “I write for people”. It’s only the adult in me who has chosen to become a full-blown storyteller but I speak my heart, my healing, and my purpose. I speak the revolution betrothed to my tongue way before I was born.

Do you have any particular cause or topic you enjoy tackling with your poetry or do you create as you are inspired?

I create as inspired, but I have generally gravitation toward issues of mental health and human rights. I’m also a bit of a love poet. Like I said, writing for me is healing. They are words, stories and poems that are razors under my tongue. The poems I resist dig deeper into my chest like a buried soul mate.

They grow blurry and distant until I can’t find the sharpness but I can still taste how it made me feel. The feeling of poetry inside me can be like a dull hunger, the distorted memory of a bite. I can’t explain my creative process, it’s like magic spread over time and I’ll be the closest thing to God. Creativity of the brain is low key blasphemy. We are all creators.

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine
Call Me Refined on the Moonchild District stage.

What was your first impression of the Zim arts scene when you started?

My first thought was “There’s no one or anything like me, they need me and my mark is different.” This was in 2015 when I stumbled upon my first open mic scene.

Zimbabwe is heavily talented, the only problem is, how can the art industry thrive in a state where no other industry is functioning. It’s not a shock when people won’t pay a $2 ticket to hear you perform, to a majority, it’s soft life, a luxury they cannot afford.

I also saw the hunger of many artists and in my head, it was always my father reminding me I would not amount to anything, I believed it because the people I saw were hungry, with guitars on their backs and Shakespeare’s sonnets on their tongues. I saw an industry I didn’t want to be part of, but it’s the need to do things differently that persistently calls me to continue pursuing my dream and the dreams of others like me. I vowed to take business to the arts, a work in progress still.

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine
Artists preparing to take the stage at a Moonchild District event.

Most of all, I found family. I found people who were willing to accept the difference I had been persecuted for. I found belonging. I found the oneness of my heart, mind, body and soul. I found that there were stars that stammered to lend us the words we lost in the darkness. I found I was a writer, a content creator, a creative, and a storyteller, I found myself closer to the things that gave me joy, I found a path and purpose. I found a light in the midst of darkness. 

You mentioned instances of censorship in Zim’s creative sector; care to tell us about the worst case you experienced? You don’t have to mention names.

Everyone is an active gatekeeper of your work because they are scared for you. They tell you what to say, or how to say it, they ask you to rephrase, to remove something completely, and not mention names. They remind you of so and so who went a similar way. When my mother hears me planning, she asks “Is this what you have really chosen?” not to say she doubts my career path, it’s the way she says it, the look in her eyes to say “are you safe?”

Artistes are not safe.

We are not safe from ourselves, we are not safe among ourselves.

We are not safe in the world.

No one is safe. Our minds are surely ours but our bodies? Our bodies have never belonged to any of us really; we suffer because of the bodies that house our gifts. We are the voice of a generation but the system will always find a way to silence us.

Your experience as a creative in Zimbabwe led you to create Moonchild District, what was the thought process behind its epiphany?

I was tired of gravelling for people to include me and see me. When people won’t give you a seat at the table, create your own fucking table, one day they’ll wash your feet and massage your guests. In other words, I am going for everything they said I’d never have or do. Moonchild District is the love child of rejection and determination, they know I’m unstoppable but people tried to make me feel small so I would reduce myself to fit their narratives.

Moonchild District is a movement of artists like me; we outcasts have to stick together.

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine
Moonchild District audience enjoying the masquerade event.

So far what is your favourite Moonchild District event to date and why?

Every show is unique in its way; we are constantly trying to outdo the last event. The masquerade, however, had us host our biggest show with the biggest audience. So I think it’s worth noting that our audience grows bigger.

Which Moonchild District event proved to be hard to put together and how did you power through?

I hosted a show where 6 out of 10 performers didn’t turn up. I had to open the floor to the audience; fortunately, this is how we ended up hosting open mics. The audience loves the mic just as much as we do. Also, the financial aspect of every show we host always has me sleepless and anxiously biting my nails. We are an unfunded movement, and it’s not pretty.

Specifically, who is the Moonchild District movement open to and how can interested creatives join?

Moonchild district is a movement, I merely lead it. For one to join, they simply follow the movement and drive us where their heart seeks.

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine
Ndanatsa gracing the Moonchild District stage

Where do you see your career as a poet and Moonchild District in the years to come, let’s say five years?

I say this on behalf of the whole group; we are trying to feed ourselves, grow ourselves, to just make it to the next day. 5 years is a long time, today is survival, and so is tomorrow. That’s what counts right now. There’s no blueprint to this life thing. I am a visionary who is still scared that I’ll die with my visions whilst everyone fights to stay alive well after I’m gone.

With Moonchild District’s business aspect, what do you consider yourself to be more of a poet or businessman?

We just want to earn money through our crafts like anyone else. Why shouldn’t the words that feed your soul pay my bills? Why do we represent our culture and creativity when it can’t even raise a morsel of sadza to the lips? We want money. We are also motivated by money. We also want to write, sing, and speak for money. We want to be taken seriously like everyone else.

Any thoughts on how to further improve Zimbabwe’s Arts space?

A lot still needs to be done. We still live in a world where it is not viable to be an artist. The economy quite sucks, it’s hard to create sustainable and consistent development. Artists need strong support and administrative structures to help them build and grow. They also need to come together to harness and create art collectively, whilst sharing resources, contacts and information.

Organizations in Zimbabwe would like you to believe they’re helping everyone by funding a favourite or regular, but the truth is a lot of artists are failing to sail off, even to begin. Resources, information and platforms are accessible to a few who use this for themselves whilst artists part of their movements or projects feed off ‘exposure’.

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine
Thando on the Moonchild District stage.

Everyone by now knows Exposure will not pay bills or feed you.

The government would like us to believe they’re helping. There’s no platform for poets, for writers, they care about sports and Jah Prayzah, the rest of us are unseen, no matter how hard we try.

The Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation established a relief fund for artists in 2020, but it’s not a full substitute for lost earnings. And as you may suspect, this was clouded with corruption and nepotism, just like everything else in this country. If Moonchild district can conquer these problems in the next 5years, we can be the leading creative hub in the region:

  1. Lack of resources to create, manage and commercialise creative art in youth consequently hindering growth and sustainability for creative youth in Zimbabwe.
  2.  Lack of guidance socially, financially and mentorship towards harnessing their creative energy from a young age, there is a need to fight the archetype of the broke creative which is a stereotype that has made many lose before they began.
  3. Dependency on informal labour and gigs in a demanding economy, leaving most creatives to abandon the creative economy chain.
  4. Administrative structures are also lacking in most creative groups. Most creatives fail from trying to be everything, from the leader to the writing, the script, recruiting artists, paying them and booking venues, accounts, reviewing their own lawful agreements etc. There are also no structures to mobilize these diverse creatives into hybrid content creators.
  5. Failure to adapt to the emerging social and cultural changes in media and production, especially in the Covid 19 era.
  6. There is not enough mainstream representation of creative arts and artists to communicate value proposition, most creatives are swapping their creative talents for priorities that feed them. There is not enough integration between creative art and communities
  7. The lack of hybrid, quality, competitive content from creatives because of a lack of resources to collaborate with other creatives or assemble production requirements and surpass its value. This hinders the growth of the Zimbabwean creative economy as content remains incompetent no matter the invested talent under limited resources.
  8. There is no support for creative start-up businesses and innovations, the government does not guide or finance start-up businesses and creative entrepreneurship.  They lack micro-enterprises that represent them as external entities that would like to support the creative sector in more substantial ways.
  9. There are no cross-sector partnerships to play an integral role in the effective use of the arts and creative industries for maximum promotion and productivity of the creative youth. They’re only limited to what they know, platforms that do not pay for exposure and cannot build sustainable growth beyond the creative industry.
  10. Creative youth are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression, there are fewer resources equipped to provide artists with mental health care and self-navigation, making drugs, unproductivity and suicide a commonality within creative communities. Art can be used for healing, as therapy both to the creative and their audience.
  11. The lack of spaces and platforms for artists to meet, socialize or work on their projects and gather resources. There are not enough spaces that allow their freedom of expression to build towards their highest potential, and surrounding environments are hostile and unaffordable for the average creative youth. There are no platforms for them to manifest their ideas and visions without in house gatekeeping. Artists need spaces and platforms that allow their wings to grow, that allows them to rise up to the task and excel in their fields.
  12. Creatives lack information that allows them to excel towards sustainable growth. Creatives who are empowered with business management and technical knowledge concerning their crafts are able to make wiser decisions concerning the direction of their art and how to build a successful enterprise from their work. They lack the skills needed to present themselves, build their individual brands and access the beneficial necessary information to drive them forward. 

Do you have any particular creatives you wish to work with and why?

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine
Chengeto Brown

Ah yes! Chengeto Brown – she’s poetry walking. Hope Masike  – I stan a legendary queen and Dudu Manhenga. Also, anyone else there making strides, poetry really can be infused anywhere and with anything. Take us to fashion, and music, we will be there.

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine
Hope Masike

Most think pursuing work in any form of the Arts is a waste of time, what do you have to say to that?

It probably is. I guess you have to allow me to fully find out, yeah?

According to Moonchild Rye, there are plenty of shows to look forward to from the movement. Look out for, A night in May scheduled for the 21st of  May 2022 (2nd edition) and Nyamavhuvhu scheduled for August 2022 (2nd edition). For more information on these and other wonderful events to look out for from Moonchild District connect with the district on social media: 

Moonchild District is in the Building and Propelling Young Artists Forward !!! Asante Afrika Magazine
Poster for upcoming Moonchild District event.

FACEBOOK – Ndi Rayanne or Moonchild District

Instagram     – ndi.rayanne or moonchild.district

Instagram     – ndi.rayanne or moonchild.district

Twitter        – @NdiRayanne

Connect with Hazel Q. Lifa: hazel@asanteafrika.net

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Mirroring The Times In Sculpture With David Ngwerume

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Mirroring The Times In Sculpture With David Ngwerume Asante Afrika Magazine

I am sure we all can agree that the beginning of the year 2020 was a rude awakening wrapped in a global event for the books due to the Covid19 pandemic. Zimbabwean sculptor slash Lawyer, David Chengetai Ngwerume, took to his creative outlet to not only process but provide a map for future generations in the form of his work, ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic Collection’ that has taken the world by storm.

According to Ngwerume, art “…is a duty and calling…”

The 40-year old’s sculpting journey started in the humble communal lands of Musana in 1995 under the instruction of revered fellow sculptor Cosmas Muchenje. He continued to excel in his academic studies as well which led him to an LLB (Bachelor of Laws, Honours) in 2006 from the University of Zimbabwe.  

Mirroring The Times In Sculpture With David Ngwerume Asante Afrika Magazine
One of Ngwerume’s pieces

According to Ngwerume, “Art is a duty and calling that I persistently continue using various forms mainly in Stone Sculpture in invoking thought into Humanity, share awareness with the contemptuous world.” Ngwerume’s sculptures have been exhibited all over the world from Hong Kong (China), Canada to the United States of America, and locally in Zimbabwe at the Hebert Chitepo Memorial. 

“My ambitions are global so I am in for it; it’s not always about where you are but where you are going.”

The sculptor’s ‘The COVID-19 Pandemic Collection’ comprises of pieces such as ‘MJ’ inspired by the pop icon Michael Jackson, encouraging people to mask up and get vaccinated. Another piece in the collection is called, ‘We are Torn’ which encourages people to sneeze into their elbows.

He is currently working on two other collections:

  • ‘Thy Next World Collection’ which addresses concerns pertaining to humanity as we move into the future;
  • And ‘Taking the Reins Collection’ which looks at the advancement of the world through the relationship between people and horses and their loyalty to humanity.

Ngwerume’s art is a reflection of the times and he is not stopping any time soon. He is also responsible for the iconic ‘Scales of Justice’ sculptures situated in front of the High Court in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare and the second capital, Bulawayo. We got to chat with the sculptor.

Mirroring The Times In Sculpture With David Ngwerume Asante Afrika Magazine
  • The first question is probably something you get a lot, but I just have to ask; how did you manage to find yourself in the world of law and sculpting? To us laymen, the fields look so vastly different.

I am a hard worker and I believe staying in work in both professions has made me invincible. The modern-day world is driven by skill and knowledge and it is acquired by putting in more effort.

“As a creative I also can tell you inspiration is everywhere, everyday life is filled with endless sources of influence.”

  • Have you ever found yourself in a position to choose between the two (law and sculpting) or a situation where one had to suffer for the benefit of the other?

Never! My ambition has always been to do more and I believe amongst the many I do I can manage both. If anything my professions feed off each other in a way.

  • What is the intention of your art?

To influence change in this world and make it a better place through various mediums from Stone Sculpture, paintings, installations and various other mediums in portraying contemporary messages that invoke thoughts into humanity towards shaping their moment in times and make this world move towards positive thinking. 

  • In a past article, it is mentioned that you draw inspiration from your experience practising law; can you remember the first case that inspired an exhibit? Why did you find the case worthy of being your muse?

The first case I got inspired by was a Domestic Violence case. It motivated me to do a painting titled, WOMEN – STRUGGLE from the CRADLE. It was the extent of damage this particular domestic abuse case had inflicted on those involved that moved me to create.

Mirroring The Times In Sculpture With David Ngwerume Asante Afrika Magazine
Ngwerume with more of his work.
  • In another article it is mentioned that you mostly use serpentine stone, why is that?

I use various types of stones in my sculpting, like Spring stone, Opal, Lepidolite and Granite. It all depends on the message I intend to portray.

  • Would you say you have any sculptors who either they personally or their work influences your work?

I am inspired by many sculptors like Michael Angelo, Gustav Vigeland and Dominic Benhura to name a few. As a creative I also can tell you inspiration is everywhere, everyday life is filled with endless sources of influence.

Mirroring The Times In Sculpture With David Ngwerume Asante Afrika Magazine
  • Sculpting isn’t really popular in Zimbabwe, how can you say the sculpting scene is in Zimbabwe? Is there a support structure from fellow sculptors or it’s more of finding your own way?

Zimbabwe in a nutshell is about finding your way, but the upside of today’s world is that it’s a global village. In this global village, if you do your best, the world will always notice. My ambitions are global so I am in for it; it’s not always about where you are but where you are going.

  • Could you please try explaining to us the creative journey you took in creating your popular COVID 19 Gallery?

The COVID-19 Pandemic is a global event affecting us all, and as an artist, I found it prudent to play my part in capturing the moments and share my views on Awareness and Vaccination.

Mirroring The Times In Sculpture With David Ngwerume Asante Afrika Magazine
Ngwerume’s piece ‘MJ’
  • In making the exhibit MJ, how did you hone in on making the sculpture about the U.S pop star Michael Jackson?

MJ was the first public figure to move around wearing a mask, and his actions were early warnings of our reality, where the air we breathe is not safe as before because of COVID-19. His messages then were foretelling.

  • According to New York-based art dealer Shingirai Mafara, your pieces are going to be part of the United Nations World Health Organisation permanent collection. Such an achievement, congratulations! How does knowing your work will live on long after you are gone feel? One could call it time travel of sorts, conversing with future generations.

I believe art is a reflection of perception and I am grateful for such higher strides being attained through my ingenuity. It is humbling to know that my work will inform, maybe even inspire future generations all over the world.

  • How has it been coming into contact with big art dealers like Shingirai Mafara and do you think that has or will affect your style or subject matter moving forward?

Such dealers inspire my work and further my will to create and give me higher hopes that my art will be seen globally.

Mirroring The Times In Sculpture With David Ngwerume Asante Afrika Magazine
Ngwerume’s piece, ‘Halt Child Marriages’
  • Your most recent exhibit, “Halt Child Marriages” is definitely one for the times. As a man, where do you think the root problem lies in Zimbabwe’s child-bride pandemic?   

The issue when it comes to child marriages is pure ugly GREED. The greediness in those men is uncalled for, it’s dirty, it’s illegal and it is immoral to view the young Girl Child as an object. We need to right such wrongs, and I am more than happy to lend my artistry to the cause.

(All pictures used are courtesy of David Ngwerume’s Facebook)

Interviewed by Hazel Lifa

hazel@asanteafrika.net

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