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Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) 2011 - Index of articles, videos and images
doesn't matter whether you are Ndebele or Shona, we are the same
people - Interview with Blessing Hungwe
May 10, 2011
Inside/Out with Blessing Hungwe
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producer and actor Blessing Hungwe wrote the HIFA 2011 play Burn
Mukwerkwere Burn. He has performed on stage at the Harare International
Festival of the Arts (HIFA) since 2007 with the production Crocodile
(2007) and produced a hit version of Oedipus at HIFA 2009. Blessing
has also worked as head writer/assistant director for the popular
Zimbabwean Soap Studio 263, and was involved in the production of
‘I want a Wedding Dress', produced by Tsitsi Dangarembga's
Nyerai Films. He describes himself as a hybrid artist able to flex
his creative muscle in any capacity and artistic field.
is it like being a playwright in Zimbabwe?
It's one of the most difficult things I've had to do
in life. Writing for TV is easier because you can hop from one production
to the next. But for theatre, there's not much happening.
You really have to be creative and at the top of your game for people
to want to hire you. It's beginning to happen for me but it's
difficult. I've thought of moving down South for a couple
years now. I've gone once or twice to test the waters. It's
ok, it's opening up for foreigners, but it's not home.
Our stories are not as gripping there as they are here. Of course
you can write from an international level, but I think it's
best to start from home, really establish yourself at home, hone
your skills with the stories that we have so that you have your
craft in hand.
you also wrote for Studio 263 at one point, what was that experience
That was my major breakthrough into writing. I had been writing
before that, but then I got an opportunity to write for 263. Fortunately
they were in a crisis at that particular moment, so I came in and
became one of the top writers. That was a harsh introduction into
writing for TV. But I enjoyed the experience, and 263 feels like
home. So whenever they need me, from time to time I might go back
and lend a hand. I loved the experience. It was pressure, pressure,
pressure. The series was struggling so we had to pull up our boots
and just do it.
a difference in writing for TV and writing for theatre, and which
do you prefer?
I prefer writing for theatre. For TV, generally I think we are removed
from the writing. Whereas for theatre it's more involved,
you're more emotionally invested in it. So I prefer writing
inspired your play at HIFA, Burn Mukwerekwere Burn?
It was inspired by a friend of mine, who was one of the victims
of the xenophobic attacks in South Africa. Fortunately he came back
alive. Unfortunately after a few months he died. That got me to
thinking, and I did some research on the subject and started writing
characters share the same name in Shona and Ndebele, and have a
lot in common but there is also tribal antagonism between them.
What informed that aspect of the play?
What I was trying to do was to hone down the universality of what
xenophobia is. We are basically all the same people, it doesn't
matter if its Ndebele, Shona, South African . . . if we trace it
back, way back, you'll find that we might all have the roots,
the same place of origin or the same ancestors. So it doesn't
matter whether you are Ndebele or you are Shona, we are the same
people watch this play, what do you want them to walk away thinking
or feeling about it?
I'm hoping for a little introspection from people. We are
all xenophobic in our ways. Zimbabweans, we tend to look down on
Mozambicans. But when it happens to us in South Africa we say "ah!
These South Africans are so mean!" But here in Zimbabwe we
look down upon Mozambicans, we call them moscans. We have Somali
refugees in Zimbabwe and we treat them badly. There is always the
thinking that when it's our home, it's ok, but when
we go away, it's not ok for other people to mistreat us.
inspires the stories you write?
I look at my space. It depends on where I'm at. Right now
I'm entering my thirties so I'm in that zone where I'm
looking at life from that perspective. When I was younger I was
looking at life through those lenses as well. So I'm hoping
as I mature in life and gain more experiences I will write from
those experiences. I think it is important to write from your own
would you say is your proudest achievement as a writer?
There's a play that I wrote called Apokalupsis and a lot of
people didn't give it enough recognition. You know how you
feel when you've done your best, you've given it everything
you have, you have sacrificed personally for it, and you know this
is good. It ran at Theatre in the Park. I was proud of that play.
No one paid me for it. It was one of those things that I wrote out
of just wanting to write. It was a proud moment for me to see it
on stage and hear my words coming from the actors.
is your dream project?
To do a musical of Sekuru Kaguvi. I think in the eighties they did
a project on Nehanda with Mbuya Stella Chiweshe, so my thinking
is that I think it's time we told the story of Kaguvi in a
musical. You know how Zimbabwean music is. It's exciting,
the mbira, the drums, Zimbabwean voices are raw, and that will blow
like to get hold of Blessing to talk about becoming a writer, he
can be contacted on: Cell: +263 772 973 481 or email: blessinghungwe
[at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk
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