The Zimbabwe Culture Centre of Detroit (ZCCD) continues to exploit the internet to initiate collaborations between local artists and those from the United States.
The project was launched in 2013 at Gallery Delta and has produced amazing work as well as a portal for inspiration flowing from both worlds. The pioneering projects included a live DJ exchange at the launch between Philani Majama from Zimbabwe and George Rahme from Detroit, USA. Majama DJ’d from Gallery Delta, while Rahme dropped tracks from Detroit, all done via Skype, in what is called ‘Skype and Mix’.
ZCCD local representative Kumbulani Zamuchiya said, “We will have a similar DJ exchange on 19 November with three local DJ’s participating. They will play what’s trending in their respective communities, so we will get to dance to music from a Detroit DJ without either the revellers or the artist having to travel.”
Another early initiative being developed is in the field of visual arts. In 2013 Masimba Hwati and Gareth Nyandoro were participants in the visual art programme and their artwork was exhibited at Gallery Delta and viewed by the Detroit crowd via Skype. This year, the artists got to travel (together with new addition, Nancy Mteki) with their work to exhibit at the N’Namdi Gallery in an exhibition entitled Simbi Dzebasa. The show opened on 11 September and will run until January next year.
In a bid to create an exchange between learning institutions, Hwati, who is also a lecturer at Harare Polytechnic, has been on a month-long residency at the Stamp School of Art and Design, at the University of Michigan in Detroit. “This was made possible through a partnership with Popps Packing Residency, the Witt Visiting Artist Programme and Njelele Art Station (Harare) and we hope the linkages created will build a bridge for a long-time exchange between the learning institutions,” said Zamuchiya.
This past August and September, ZCCD facilitated one of the biggest collaborations in local dance history as Detroit jit dancer Haleem ‘Stringz’ Rasul took part in a dance exchange with popular sungura dancer and singer, Francis Dhaka a.k.a Franco Slomo. The collaboration dubbed the Jit Exchange, started off online like the collaborations, only to be further developed when ‘Stringz’ landed in Harare in August.
The two dancers trained for several days, exchanging skills and choreography, while coming up with a routine they later showcased to the public at the House of Sphinx night club in the CBD. They then moved to Slomo’s hometown (Chitungwiza) and performed for a packed audience at The Place night club.
After delivering an electric performance Rasul said, “I’m happy to have come to Zimbabwe as part of a great initiative. I enjoyed my stay while at the same time learning a lot from the rich culture of local dance.” Rasul was also part of this year’s Jibilika Dance Festival held in Bulawayo. He conducted several dance workshops as well as being one of the judges for the finals.
ZCCD vows to continue their work strengthening ties between Harare and Detroit. “I’m producing a documentary on the Jit Exchange to be released later this year. Our work will continue in Harare and Detroit, and creatives are welcome to join,” said Zamuchiya.
Other ZCCD initiatives include poetry exchanges with artists such as Batsirai Chigama, Upmost, Mbizo Chirasha and Chirikure Chirikure as well as the “Call and Respond” video art project featuring Zimbabwe’s Hope Masike and Detroit’s Monica Blaire.