The flower that keeps blooming: TUMBUKA Dance Company is back!

One of Zimbabwe’s biggest international exports and most prominent contemporary dancer ensemble Tumbuka Dance Company is back. Established by British choreographer Neville Campbell in the early 1990s. (kuTumbuka is a Shona word which means ‘to flower or bloom’.) Sadly the revered and internationally acclaimed Tumbuka Dance Company shut its doors sometime in July 2016 after operating for 25 years.

Simba Arts directed by Simbarashe Norman Fulukia will lead Tumbuka Dance Company simultaneously with its newly Zimbabwean based contemporary dance outfits Danseteater of Mosi Oa Tunya and Norwegian based Vestland Danseteater.

By Plot Mhako

Simbarashe Norman Fulukia

Initially when formed, Tumbuka was supported by various international donor agencies and local corporate bodies, under the guidance and mentorship of Neville Campbell, a U.K. based contemporary choreographer. During this time Tumbuka toured extensively and achieved world-wide recognition. 

Tumbuka Dance Company was created to find the most gifted Zimbabwean youth, develop their knowledge and skills in contemporary dance, to fuse this knowledge with the richness of the Zimbabwean culture, and to produce a unique contemporary dance company of excellence, which would perform to the widest possible audience with excellence.”

Tumbuka Dance Company

When the international economic down turn occurred, funding for the Arts became constrained resulting in less tours and the ability of the Company to cover the costs of attracting top level choreographers. 

earGROUND’s Plot Mhako sat down with Norway based dancer, choreographer and Simba Arts creative director Simbarashe Norman Fulukia who is spearheading the project to find out more about the revival plans and the vision.

What made you to want to revive Tumbuka.

The status quo of dance in the country in particular contemporary dance, a significant lack of opportunity for professional dancers and their development in Harare, Zimbabwe. Our collective efforts (Simba Arts’ and DTZ’s) to uplift, strengthen the dance arts, elevate new narratives of Zimbabwe dance made us to revive Tumbuka Dance Company.

The other motive behind reviving Tumbuka was necessitated by that we no longer had a professional dance company that represented the country international and national in the arts sector.

This new generation of dance artists have never experienced how it feels to be in a full time functional dance company.

By reviving Tumbuka it brings back value to the Zimbabwean arts sector and inspiration to all those who do not see art as a profession in particular dance/movement arts and a full time job. This move also brings hope and inspiration to all the artist around Zimbabwe. Many dancers were giving up on their talents because they did not see hope and a vision of making a life through art.

How will the arrangement work?

The arrangement will work fruitfully when the parties and partners are disciplined and respect their roles whole heartedly. Leading by example will be of key importance. Dance Trust of Zimbabwe entrusted Simba Arts with their brand and Tumbuka Dance Company joined a fleet of Simba Arts’ managed actives in Norway and Zimbabwe. Simba Arts will lead Tumbuka Dance Company simultaneously with its newly Zimbabwean based contemporary dance outfits Danseteater of Mosi Oa Tunya and Norwegian based Vestland Danseteater.

Tumbuka Dance Company is recruiting full-time Artistic Associates who can contribute to its impeccable performing standards and also mould cultural entrepreneurs. In addition to creation and performance, the Artistic Associates will be highly engaged in the organization’s Community and cultivated as entrepreneurs and leaders in the field.

With an unrelenting focus on artistic excellence and social integrity, Tumbuka will co-create an environment where dancers are activated towards their full artistic, entrepreneurial, and socially-minded selves through rigorous physical, intellectual, and interpersonal practices.

What does this means for Dance and dancers in Zimbabwe?

Zimbabwe has an ambition to develop in Dance arts, if given the opportunity, do away with the horsey culture and create space to improve, rethink, restructure and reinvent our “small” (but also big) dance society. Dancers MUST unite and speak with one voice,co-operation is vital to any development and growth of the community or society.The presence of Tumbuka Dance Company will give hope and create a healthy competition in the creative industry.

It’s time for a radical rethinking of dance arts. Its time to stop containing and start embracing. To retire the exploitation of dance artists in Zimbabwe and focus on the positive impact the dance can have on both physical and mental health well-being in society. The present and future is about the new narratives for Zimbabwean Dance – “The Dance that moves”.

There have been previous attempts to revive Tumbuka before, what gives confidence to this project now?

What gives confidence to this project now is that we have seen and experienced all the mistakes that were done before. We now know what to do and not and have been given a second chance to correct all the mistakes and the advantage we have now is that we know all the corrections to be corrected and go even deeper on other ideas that were successful from the previous attempts. Also the support from all those who had missed the beauty of art at a professional level.

The resurrection of Tumbuka will unite dancers and help in coming with one voice since Tumbuka is within the image of a National Dance Company. We have witnessed two developments in music sector and film sector with strategic documents being made and we hope the same with happen in dance.”

Tumbuka Dance Company conducted auditions on the 3rd of September at the National Ballet in Harare.

For any enquiries, dancers can contact Tumbuka Dance Company by email @ dancetumbuka@gmail.com or follow on @dancetumbuka on Facebook and Instagram

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