On Sunday, seven young women from the Young Vic Theatre in London were received in Bulawayo by Nhimbe Trust under the auspices of the “Unified Women Project”, which will span two weeks. The Young Vic Theatre and Nhimbe Trust are partnering in the project by availing a platform for cultural exchange between young women and emerging creatives in the United Kingdom (UK) and Zimbabwe. Through collaboration, the women will explore topical themes such as migration, conflict and feminism.
They will tackle the manner these ideas relate to their lives and individual circumstances. The project aims to equip participants with confidence, while improving literacy, communication and presentation skills. Supported by the British Council, the project is the first international collaboration of this scale for both the Young Vic Theatre (UK) and Nhimbe Trust. IndependentXtra’s Admire Kudita (AK) spoke to Rob Lehmann (RL), the director of Young Vic and Josh Nyapimbi (JL) of Nhimbe Trust about the project. Below are the interview excerpts:
AK: What is the purpose of this trip?
RL: The purpose of the trip is to provide a cultural exchange between UK and Zimbabwean women aged 18-25. Our hope is that they will learn about one another’s culture and lifestyles and the role that women play in society across the world. Our aim is for young women to feel empowered and strong in themselves as women and as individuals. The project is called “Unified Women Project”. It’s funded by the British Council and is a collaboration between the Young Vic Theatre and Nhimbe trust.
AK: How did the initiative come about?
RL: The project is a response to the call by the British Council for collaborations between the UK and Zimbabwe. The partnership was for individual, small companies and organisation collaborations. The Young Vic and Nhimbe trust successfully applied for the organisation collaboration fund. Before the British Council project was availed, the Young Vic and Nhimbe Trust already had a relationship, as Josh Nyapimbi was on a commonwealth fellowship placement at the Young Vic. Josh met everyone at the Young Vic, but was based in the Taking Part office, resulting in many conversations about participatory work.
JL: The arrival of Young Vic Theatre is after a seed sown in 2013 during a Commonwealth fellowship in London, when I spent a week at Young Vic Theatre. Thanks to Chipo Chung and friends for facilitating the Commonwealth fellowship, and the British Council for supporting the “Unified Women Project” cultural exchange between Nhimbe Trust and Young Vic Theatre. We also thank the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe for the facilitation of immigration formalities which enabled the smooth entry of UK participants.
AK: How were the members of the group selected?
RL: The members of the group were selected by application and audition. We had over 40 young women aged 18-25 who applied.
All were from our local boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. Some of the women had previously worked with us, while it was the first time for others to be in contact with the Young Vic. After a day of group auditions, we selected seven young women to be a part of the project. Those selected were of various backgrounds: some had lots of experience and others very little. It was important to us to make the group as diverse and representative of London as possible. (According to the Nhimbe Trust press statement, local participants were selected from among the many talented young women who responded to Nhimbe Trust’s call for female Zimbabwean scriptwriters in March, and participants in May, and auditions in June 2017).
AK: What is the Young Vic and what are its objectives?
RL: The Young Vic is a theatre in London that produces modern and classic plays in a contemporary style. In our outreach work, Young Vic Taking Part works within the local boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, providing free arts provision, theatre tickets and workshops to schools, young people and adults within our neighboourhood.
AK: What are you expecting to accomplish through this trip?
RL: We hope to build a stronger relationship with Nhimbe trust. We hope the young women from both countries will feel empowered. The Young Vic is a famous theatre, a short walk from Waterloo mainline and underground station in the heart of London. It was formed in 1946 by George Devine and was for a while part of Britain’s National Theatre before it became independent in 1974. Its programming is intended to appeal to a youthful audience.