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Chimurenga Renaissance

Listen to Chimurenga Renaissance & King Britt's New Single 'Zimbabwe', Featuring Nadine Stoddart

'Zimbabwe', the new single from Zimbabwe's alternative band Chimurenga Renaissance, is an effortless fusion of soul and rap.

Chimurenga Renaissance has returned with a new single titled ''Zimbabwe". The Chimurenga Renaissance duo, made up of Tendai 'Baba' Maraire and Hussein Kalonji, have partnered with producer King Britt and added sultry vocals from Nadine Stoddart. The single pays homage to Dumisani Maraire, Tendai 'Baba' Maraire's father.

Read: Chimurenga Renaissance 'The B.A.D Is So Good'

"Zimbabwe" is a wonderous amalgamation of traditional Zimbabwean sounds, jazz, rap and soul. The song certainly sounds like it travelled across multiple continents to earn its uniqueness. Rightly so, as it was recorded in Zimbabwe, Philadelphia and Seattle. "Zimbabwe" is a gentle reminder of the musical gifts that the country has given to the world. In essence, it is a celebration of Baba Maraire's late father Dumisani Maraire who is often heralded for showcasing his musical mastery with the Zimbabwean mbira instrument, and introducing it to the Western world. Baba Maraire reworked parts of his father's rendition of the traditional celebratory song, "Tondori" to create the mellow "Zimbabwe". The result is a seamless track that encapsulates generations of Zimbabwean sounds, jazz and hip-hop.

Chimurenga Renaissance is based in Seattle, USA. The duo's sound cannot be boxed in, and was once described as pan-Africanist with a "trans-Atlantic mélange of melodies, polyrhythms, glitches, and distortion" byNPR. Baba Maraire, a flexible multi-instrumentalist and rapper, is also one half of the hip-hop duo Shabbaz Palaces.

Music fans have been anticipating a new track release, and Chimurenga Renaissance eagerly delivered bright and early on Friday, April 16.

Listen to "Zimababwe" by Chimurenga below.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images.

Tsitsi Dangarembga’s Protest Conviction has Been Overturned

Celebrated Zimbabwean author Titsi Dangarembga has had her conviction overturned.

It’s a good day for Tsitsi Dangarembga, because according to reports, the Zimbabwean author has had her conviction overturned after she was accused of inciting violence by staging a peaceful protest.

In September 2022, Dangarembga, was convicted of inciting violence after she staged a peaceful protest calling for political reform. Alongside fellow activist Julie Barnes, Dangarembga held a placard inscribed with "We want better. Reform our institutions" during the 2020 protest. This spiraled into a months-long controversy that seems to be simmering down. On Monday, May 8th, the high court in Harare overturned the verdict and cleared her of any wrongdoing. Dangarembga's six-month suspended sentence and a fine of 70,000 Zimbabwean dollars were also lifted. Her lawyer Chris Mhike stated that the full judgment is yet to be released.

“Eventually, justice prevailed in this case. It is most unfortunate that it took so long for Tsitsi and Julie to be set free. Be that as it may, this vindication from the high court is most welcome,” Mhike said.

Months before now, several organizations, including Amnesty International and the writers’ association Pen International — an ally for Dangarembga — had called for the charges against her to be dropped.

During a period when the government honed in on human rights campaigners, including the arrest of investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono, Dangarembga was also arrested. Chin'ono, who was arrested three times between 2020 and 2021 after criticizing the government of Zimbabwe for being corrupt, stated to The Guardian that both he and Dangarembga were being persecuted for standing up to "tyranny, corruption and the abuse of the rule of law."

“The acquittal of Tsitsi Dangarembga and Julie Barnes is another testimony of how the rule of law has broken down in the magistrates court,” said Chin’ono.

In light of Dangarembga’s conviction, critics fear that with the Zimbabwe presidential election coming up, freedom of speech will be stifled. This is a developing story.

Photographed by Vigorous Youth.

Inside the Skeyi & Strobo Fabrik Party & Zimbabwe’s Stylish Creative Scene

With its eclectic mix of live music, fashion shows, visual art and popup stalls, founder Ulenni Okandlovu is spearheading a creative wellspring in the country

The Skeyi and Strobo Fabrik Party (SS Fabrik Party, for short) has become Zimbabwe’s premier street culture event. In the city of Harare, it has offered a space for local creatives and entrepreneurs to express themselves through runway shows, live performances, pop-up stalls, and visual art.

For its seventh outing, Zimbabwe’s tastemakers assembled at the First Floor Gallery in Harare last month. Showing out in colorful streetwear and other eccentric touches, this visual aesthetic has come to define the pulse of the event. Founder and curator of the Fabrik Party, Ulenni Okandlovu, describes the event as “the creative’s revolutionary party, a celebration of vibrant street art and its emerging subcultures.”

Ulenni Okandlovu.Ulenni Okandlovu.Photographed by Vigorous Youth.

“Skeyi” and “Strobo” are linguistic updates. Borrowed from the South African Dutch words “Skei” and “Strop,” they mean cattle shoulder yoke and twisted string from softened cowhide respectively. These words are mashed up, in a way that signifies the strength and collaborative spirit of SS Fabrik Party.

According to Okandlovu, the event was inspired by the idea to create a haven where creatives and artists from various subcultures can come together, collaborate, network, and share resources while showing their work and forming a sustainable creative ecosystem.

“It is an apt and contextual platform serving as a much-needed space for young creatives, artists, and designers in Zimbabwe to display their artistic talents in an uncut, unfiltered, uncensored, and raw manner transcending the dominant policing of fashion styles that characterizes our current era,” Okandlovu told OkayAfrica.

The Fabrik Party has provided a large number of local Zimbabwean brands to show their work with fashion labels. Haus of Stone, Rozebowl, Zimbabwean Sunshine, Rori Bisamu, and many others have exhibited it on the runway.

The Fabrik Party launched at the Mbare Art Space in 2020 with activations that led up to the main event, which was held towards the end of the year. It then grew strength with multiple venues for future editions including the First Floor Art Gallery Harare, Old Mutual Greatermans building, and IBUHUB. In 2022, it was staged three times.

Scenes from the 6th Edition of the Fabrik Party photographed by Kuda Chakwanda.Scenes from the 6th Edition of the Fabrik Party.Photographed by Kuda Chakwanda.

Reflecting on the lessons learned from the previous Fabrik Party editions, Okandlovu expressed how each edition welcomed a new challenge presenting a learning opportunity. He emphasized the importance of collaboration in bringing each event to life. “We always work as a collective of like-minded individuals allowing every individual to shine,” Okandlovu said. “We make sure to credit everyone accordingly.”

Okandlovu cited the First Floor Gallery Harare, Caligraph collective, Mbare Art Space, and many others as frequent collaborators that work behind the scene to make the Fabrik Party a reality.

The Fabrik Party has grown beyond being an art and design event as it is now a creative community. “The movement has inspired people to appreciate local streetwear and homegrown products as well as to adopt environmentally sustainable practices,”Okandlovu said.

The Fabrik Party has amplified an era that many people have termed the Zimbabwean creative renaissance. Okandlovu believes that Zimbabwe’s creative scene is still emerging and there is huge growth and cross pollination between artists from different disciplines.

Apart from curating the SS Fabrik party, Okandlovu is a multidisciplinary creative who uses music, fashion, and journalism to tell stories. He is also one half of the Bantu Spaceships along with Joshua Madalitso Chiundiza, a Zimbabwean band modernizing traditional sounds such as Jit and Sungura for a unique soundscape that can be described as “New Jit Wave.”

As a collective, the Bantu Spaceships have performed internationally, featuring at this year’s MTN Bush Fire event in Eswatini, alongside acts such as Stogie T, Ami Faku and Black Motion.

The future of the Fabrik Party looks bright as Okandlovu plans on expanding its reach and territory. “We have been working in phases,” Okandlovu said. “We are now approaching the fourth phase which is to take activations to other cities around the country and region.”

Chenesai Africa at the 7th Edition of the Fabrik Party.Photographed by Vigorous Youth.

Models wearing designs by Rozebowl at the SS Fabrik Party photographed by Vigorous Youth Models wearing designs by Rozebowl at the SS Fabrik Party.Photographed by Vigorous Youth.

Scenes from the 7th edition of the Fabrik Party photographed by Vigorous YouthScenes from the 7th edition of the Fabrik Party.Photographed by Vigorous Youth

Outfits on show at the 5th Edition of the Fabrik Party photograph by Lennox MakurumizdeOutfits on show at the 5th Edition of the Fabrik Party.Photograph by Lennox Makurumizde.

Models wearing Haus of Stone at the 7th edition of the Fabrik Party photographed by Opus Photo.Models wearing Haus of Stone at the 7th edition of the Fabrik Party.Photographed by Opus Photo.

Thandi Gula-Ndebele at the 7th edition of the Fabrik Party Photographed by Vigorous Youth.Thandi Gula-Ndebele at the 7th edition of the Fabrik Party.Photographed by Vigorous Youth.


Mr Eazi Launches New Group ChopLife Soundsystem

Listen to the new 14-song album Chop Life, Vol. 1 Mzansi Chronicles.

Mr Eazi, the acclaimed music superstar, business visionary, and globe-trotter, extends a heartfelt invitation to music enthusiasts to embark on a sonic journey to South Africa with the release of Chop Life, Vol. 1: Mzansi Chronicles (Choplife Limited/emPawa Africa), the inaugural offering from his newly-formed pan-African music collective, ChopLife Soundsystem.

Crafted amidst the vibrant locales of Cape Town and Johannesburg, this 14-track album serves as an exuberant tribute to amapiano, the electrifying dance music genre that has burst forth from South Africa and garnered international recognition. Joining forces with an excellent lineup of South African music luminaries such as Moonchild Sanelly, Focalistic, Nkosazana Daughter, Ami Faku, and Major League Djz, alongside a host of emerging talents, Mr Eazi presents his interpretation of the scene's captivating elements.

Mzansi Chronicles is an ode to the amapiano sound that has been the soundtrack to my parties and me going to clubs,” Mr Eazi said of the project. “It’s me working with some of my favorite artists and capturing my interpretation of elements I love from the scene.”

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Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight.

Rosine Mbakam on the Power of Family and Returning Home in Filmmaking

The Cameroonian filmmaker uses her documentary skills to create her first fictional feature, Mambar Pierrette, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this week.

After a critically lauded career as a documentary filmmaker, writer/director Rosine Mbakam arrives at the Cannes Film Festival in the Directors’ Fortnight program with her first narrative feature: Mambar Pierrette. The film sees Mbakam returning to her homeland of Cameroon to tell the story of a dressmaker — Pierrette (Pierrette Aboheu Njeuthat) — as she deals with mounting financial calamities that threaten her children’s school year and the health of her business.

It’s a conceit that feels familiar to Vittorio De Sica’s film, but with a different, uniquely African touch. While Mbakam has switched mediums for this film, the story, and its translation is similar to the director’s previous films, such as Chez Jolie Coiffure, Delphin’s Prayer, and The Two Faces of a Bamileke Woman in their focus on Black women who use their respective craft to cope with the hurdles they encounter. For Mambar Pierrette, Mbakam retools these familiar themes for Cameroon. The result indicates a change of direction for the filmmaker with regard to mood and tone, switching from ruminative to joyous, from staid to colorful and vibrant. Because all around Pierrette is life: It’s her children, it’s her village; it’s her vivid customers and the lively dresses she designs.

With Mambar Pierrette, Mbakam offers the unique cultural lens she’s spent nearly a decade crafting to give viewers a vision of radical empathy and a change in perspective. After having spent several years working in television, she attended film school in Belgium, where she is now based, before going on to create her first trio of feature-length documentaries that shared stories of Cameroonian women.

She talks to OkayAfrica about wanting to show a different Africa, making a film with her family, and subverting the traditions of Western filmmaking.

The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.

You’ve spent your career doing documentaries, but this is your first fictional film. Why did you feel you needed to switch for this particular story?

Fictional features were my first desire. I discovered documentaries when I was in film school. But my desire when I wanted to do cinema was to do features because it was what I was seeing on television in Cameroon. It was not documentaries. When I was in film school I really didn't know what kind of fiction I wanted to do. And when I discovered the documentary [form], it gave me a lot of freedom to be myself, to really experience what I wanted to, because I didn't want an intermediary between me and the people that I wanted to film.

Because of all the legacy of colonialism — I was in Belgium — I didn't want to use a white person or a person that didn't know what I wanted to question. But the documentary really helped me to deconstruct my gaze, and to just find my way and really see what kind of fiction I could do. Because the fiction that I learned in film school was Western fiction, and it was difficult for me to apply it in my reality in Cameroon. I'm really happy to come to my first desire of cinema, of doing fiction and really the fiction that I want to do with all the knowledge that I had from documentaries.

An image of the filmmaker, Rosine Mabakam, holding a microphone.Rosine Mabakam speaks at the premiere of her film in the Directors’ Fortnight program at the Cannes Film Festival.Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight / Delphine Pincet.

Your previous films are set in Belgium, but for this one you returned to Cameroon. Why did it make sense to return now?

Because when I was in Belgium I was there in the context of the legacy of colonialism. And I was confronting it every day. I wanted to really find my position there because I chose to live there, even though my inspiration was Cameroon. I wanted to deconstruct that and find my way because I knew that when I was deconstructing it that it would help me to see my reality differently. Because when I was in Cameroon, I was colonized. I didn't know I was reproducing all the things that I was seeing from the films I was watching in Cameroon. I wanted to discover how the rest of the world saw people like me in Belgium. It was important for me to deconstruct that first and to go back to Cameroon afterwards because I didn't want to reproduce the power of Western cinema on people that I wanted to film in Cameroon.

I love that you see it as a deconstruction of the image white people have of people from Cameroon or really any African country. You always get to the inner lives of the people you capture by looking at their craft. With Chez Jolie Coiffure, for instance, you focus on hairdressers. What draws you to a person's relationship with their craft, and why did you choose a dressmaker for this film?

In Cameroon, in my culture, all of those small spaces are where people come and drop stories and drop pain and also reconstruct their mental health. And I want to underline those spaces that sometimes people neglect because for them, maybe, it's not important. For me, for Chez Jolie Coiffure, with the hairdressers, it's the same thing. It's the space where women, and some men, come to just drop something and or take something.

I want to make people understand that sometimes it's not big spaces or important spaces that make us feel confident or that make us feel fine. I grew up in those smaller spaces. My mother was a dressmaker and my grand sister was her hairdresser. I really know those spaces and I know how it's built my imagery for stories of strong women. I wanted to show that.

I love the designs of the dresses; they’re so vibrant and vivid. What do they represent to you and to the character of Peirrette?

It's the dresses and how people can rebuild themselves through them. It's the space where your life can change with the world, with solidarity and also with love that people have brought to you through those spaces. You are surrounded not only by one woman, but by all these people who are coming. And yes, I really like fashion and also the colors.

In Cameroon, we don't have enough confidence in what we have. Even in fashion, we’re always looking at the West and how the West dresses without taking into account what we have. I wanted to show that it's beautiful and our story is important by just talking to ordinary people to show that even if we are ordinary, we have something important to say.

A still from the film of a group of women outside a rural dress shop.Rosine Mbakam’s first narrative feature is set in Cameroon.Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight.

The actress who plays Pierrette is your first cousin, correct? And it’s her first time acting?

It's not only my cousin. All of the cast are members of my family except for two people. But the rest are my mother, my aunts, my cousins, my sisters, my grand sisters.

Did you find it challenging directing people who you're not only related to but are in a situation where they’ve probably never acted before?

It's more challenging. There is a power in cinema and we know how that power has been used to stereotype Africans. I know the consequences of that power. And even more so with my family. Because they didn't really don't know what is the cinema, and how that power can be destructive. It's easy to take that power and to make them do what I want. It's important for me to be more vigilant and to give them the space to express themselves. That was really challenging because I had to be more careful about that.

With all of the travesties that befall Pierrette, a woman on an economic edge, I was really reminded of Vittorio De Sica’s films like Bicycle Thieves and Umberto D. And yet, you don’t remain on a track toward heartbreak like those films do. It’s almost like a De Sica film would be impossible to pull off because the idea of community is so present here?

I didn't feel it was possible to end like that because, usually, it doesn’t end like that in my family. With every problem you have people going together to resolve something, to bring joy, even if there is something very painful. For me, it was a perspective that I wanted to give to that story. And I wanted to give the perspective of that power that I can see in Pierrette and all of the members of my family. I wanted to show that power is higher than the difficulty. That was the intention behind that ending with the mannequin, and of all the neocolonialism that exists. Our power can overtake those problems.

A still from the film, 'Mambar Pierrette,' of a woman walking next to a girl carrying a bucket on her head.In ‘Mambar Pierrette,’ Rosine Mbakam enlisted family members for the film.Photo courtesy Directors’ Fortnight.

Her shop is also very small, yet open. Whenever Pierrette is making dresses, in the background you can see the street and you can see the life of her neighborhood. Could you talk a bit about why you framed her in that way as opposed, to say, close-ups?

If you see my film Chez Jolie Coiffure, you’ll notice it's really close. But if I close the perspective, here, it's not how we live in Cameroon. There is always a door open somewhere or someone can open the door to give you something, to give you help, to give a testimony. But in Chez Jolie Coiffure, in the West, Black people are closed into their space. In Cameroon it's different. There is always a perspective, there is always a solution. And I wanted to show that, to open that place, even if it's small. In Chez Jolie Coiffure, in the salon there is no door open anywhere. It's really close. It's like a prison. It's really close. In this film, it’s different. You can see the life of the earth coming, you can see light coming.

What do you hope people take away from this film when they’re finished?

I hope people will see another Africa and another way of filming Africa, another way to imagine Africa, and how we can look at Africa differently. I don't think we usually see that perspective, to be in the position of someone in Africa. I want people to be with these people and to help them understand what they want to say. I hope that people will watch the film and will remember the images and the words of this Black woman.

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