In April, Theatre Strahl-Berlin and Inkululeko Yabatsha School of Arts (Iyasa) in Bulawayo began their cooperation. The German team toured Zimbabwe to get an appreciation of the country’s cultural values. The Zimbabwean team reciprocated in Berlin. Shepherded by the directress Anna Vera Kelle and Nkululeko Dube, founder and head of Iyasa (who is also a composer and choreographer), the play’s development began. Black & White Ain’t No Colours, a product of cultural exchange, is targetted at young audiences from 14 years. Three German and three Zimbabwean actors find themselves in a transition. Caught in between two cultural worlds, they construct a utopian society. The play is replete with humour and poignancy through dance and music. The ensemble tackles societal prejudices and cultural diversity. Tomorrow night at Theatre in the Park at 6pm, the show premieres in Harare to a multicultural audience. IndependentXtra’s Admire Kudita (AK) interviewed Iyasa’s Dube (ND).
AK: How did you link with your German counterparts and how did the idea of the play evolve ?
ND: Over five years ago I met the director of Theatre Strahl-Berlin during one of our annual international tours in Austria. After watching one of our other collaborations with another theatre company from Vienna, we mooted an idea of doing something in Germany. It took years of planning and looking for support and this year the idea materialised. A production that cuts across and mirrors our diverse cultures was born. This production shows that while we are different, we are the same. We all yearn for the same things, like feeling safe, loved and secure. After research, we were able to interrogate various cultural differences and similarities and realised that our colour, black or white has no primary effect on how we view life and aspire to live. No child is born conscious of colour.
AK: The production is about racism in a sense. What are your personal feelings about racism or tribal prejudice?
ND: Colour, race and tribe do not shape a human being. Instead, it’s socialisation that does. There is more to human beings than their physical appearences. This production addresses this topic from a different angle. We don’t even explore skin colour in it because for us, it’s not even worth attention. We look at issues that could show our audiences that we are different but the same. Our fears, our aspirations and our desires are similar.
AK: How do you select who participates in a production?
ND: Merit. We look at excelling artists who are consistent, dedicated, show potential and above all, disciplined. We would rather work with an average artist who is disciplined than a very talented one without discipline.
AK: What do you believe is your role as an artist?
ND: As artists, we have the privilege of being mirrors and voices of the society. We have a great influence on how people view the world and view each other. My responsibility is to use that privilege responsibly to bring people together, to foster good relations, teach people to appreciate each other’s similarities and differences. We are there to make this world a better place for people to live in and to share.
AK: How many members are in Iyasa?
ND: Because we operate more as a school of arts, our membership evolves a lot. We handle up to 40 young artists a year with about 20 making to core of our work and functionality. We encourage our members to learn from us and then go out to start their own projects. We are a resource centre and look to graduate as many artists into the system. Examples of artists like Sandra Ndebele, Nkwali, Futurelove, among others, are an epitome of our model.
AK: As Iyasa how do you make your money?
ND: Iyasa is independent. Our survival depends entirely on selling our craft in various ways. Either as productions, entertainment services or selling products like CDs and DvDs. We are also project-oriented and once in a while, we collaborate with international companies.
AK: What lessons have you learnt from touring with Iyasa about how the business of creativity is conducted overseas?
ND: I have learnt a lot over the 16 years. The business of creativity is no lesser than any other business. It requires models of management and only when you run it professionally, are you able to attract support from similar initiatives. I think we, as Zimbabwe, have a lot to do to try and create a viable industry out of the arts. Worldwide, they are an intergral part of national economic development, contributing immensely to their respective countries’ Gross Domestic Products.
AK: Any culture shock moments you might want to share?
ND: I have travelled so much. l now absorb a lot of cultural differences without much shock anymore.
I, however, can say l see a lot of this in the young people that we travel with. One of the highlights of culture shocks has always been the realisation that Europe is not littered with money and riches.
For them to find beggars and poor people too in other parts of the world they have always looked up to, comes as a culture shock. Even the way love, marriage and relationship play out in Europe, especially both in private and public spaces, has been a culture shock for many.