Rough but worth it : A decade later, Khaya Arts still going strong

The Chronicle

Angela Sibanda, Showbiz Reporter
Operating as a group in the arts industry comes with several challenges and Khaya Arts is one of Bulawayo’s cultural groups that have remained standing through overcoming challenges as they arise.

Established on September 3, 2011, at Sizinda Youth Centre, the group has built a reputation through consistency and innovative performances.

The group is, however, now operating from Tshabalala where they sought refuge after several attacks by thieves who got away with their equipment and other essential resources.

Khaya Arts

According to the group’s director Future Dube, the attacks were a blessing in disguise as they pushed the group to a safer and much bigger space that enables them to rehearse and host events.

He said the idea of forming Khaya Arts was a motivation for reviving the Ndebele language and culture in Sizinda.

“I was also motivated by the number of young people who spent their days loitering around the neighbourhood doing nothing.

So, starting Khaya Arts was a way of trying to give young people something to do because there was no arts group in Sizinda then and the suburb was dominated by Malawi and Mozambique nationals, so there was a need to revive Ndebele dances and culture through arts.

“But youths from Sizinda didn’t take part, because from a group of 20, only two came from the area and the rest were from different suburbs.

Currently, performers are from different suburbs and we have ongoing auditions for three more members,” Dube said.

Despite losing all founding members, Dube has kept the fire burning through recruitment and innovation of new dances that have seen the group being part of the must-have performers at public celebrations and weddings.

“From the about 20 members that we started with, many dropped out along the way.

This was because we had no shows, no clients, inadequate equipment and some of the group members were coming from far away and needed transport money.

It was, therefore, a hard thing selling the vision to people who joined hoping it was going to be a fast-cash scenario.

“We used to practice and perform barefooted and every time we went for auditions, we were a sorry sight as people looked at us with pity.

Thus, some of the guys had to drop out because they didn’t believe in sacrificing to make it.

They wanted a quick buck to take home because some would have left difficult situations back home,” recounted Dube.

Roil Bulawayo Arts Award

He said the group also lost members who desired to pursue different art genres outside the country with one of the members, Praise Ncube scooping a Roil Bulawayo Arts Award (BAA).

“There are two members who left the group to pursue comedy.

Chick al Joy and Thando Tshuma are now in South Africa and they are popularly known as the comedy couple.

I’m proud of them I must say because they are doing quite well.”

He said sometime in 2016, the group was left with five members, four performers, and the director himself.

Currently, Khaya Arts is made up of eight performers, a DJ, an administrator, and the director, bringing the total to 11 members.

They are also holding auditions for three more members.

The group has not left the country for a performance, but has travelled to most of the provinces in the country and has been active participants in local competitions.

“We’ve never been outside of the country, but we’ve travelled to many places in Zimbabwe including Victoria Falls, Harare, Gweru, Kwekwe, Mutare, Tsholotsho, Lupane and Plumtree to mention a few.

We’ve participated in the Chibuku Neshamwari competitions and won in 2018.

We had the opportunity to represent Bulawayo province in the national competitions that were held in Mutare but we didn’t do so well,” said Dube.

Generally, the group has been doing very well, something that makes Dube very proud.

“One of our female performers Praise Ncube scooped the RoilBAA Best female dancer award in 2018.”

RoilBAA Best female dancer award in 2018

Apart from dance, he said they do praise poetry per request by clients, the same applies to drama.

“The economic situation of the country makes it hard for a group to specialise in one genre.

That’s why we do a collection of dance, poetry and drama so that if one thing doesn’t work, we always have something else to fall on,” he said.

Dube said the group is also working on new projects that they are set to première before the end of this year.

“One of the projects that we’re working on is the Africana Dansaro.

It was part of the dances that we performed during the Culture Week celebrations last month.

It’s a combination of Afro-Ballet, Afro-Caribbean, and other dances.

“We’re also pushing projects that are set to première before year-end.

The Africana Dansaro is one of them and the other is called Ngomdladla, which is a gumboot performance.”

In August, Dube said they will be hosting their annual Green Art festival.

“We’ll be bringing in a lot of young talent and doing a lot of performances.

The name Green symbolises young and talented artistes who still have life and opportunity in the arts industry,” he said.

Being in the arts industry has not been easy and his love and passion for arts are what have kept Dube going.

“Working without sponsorship is not easy, it’s been a rough journey for me as a director.

Most of the time we get paid less and that same amount has to be shared between performers so that they have something they can hold on to and at the same time, the group needs to progress in terms of equipment and catch up with modern technologies,” he said.

A talented artiste himself, before starting Khaya Arts, Dube was part of Black Umfolosi, a group that he sang with for about two years.

Black Umfolosi

“I got to travel with them to places like France, Austria and other countries.”

However, due to a wide generation gap, he was forced to leave Black Umfolosi.

“I tried sharing my ideas with the leaders, but due to the generation gap, because I was still young then, they didn’t understand, and somehow, I didn’t believe in following the same path and doing things the same way every time,” he said.

Apart from art, Dube is a football player who, however, due to his passion for art, gave up the dream of being famous in soccer.

“I’m actually a soccer player and had the opportunity of playing for big teams back in the day.

I played for Highlanders although I didn’t make it to the senior team.

I also played for Railton Stars, but when I got injured and broke my arm, my mother had to incur all the expenses as I got no help from the team.

This got me thinking twice about my football career,” said Dube.

The group’s award-winning female dancer, Praise Ncube said she joined the group at a tender age and has never regretted the decision to stay with the group, even in trying times.

“I joined the group in 2011, a few months after its establishment.

I was 14 years old doing Form 2 at Nkulumane High School.

I used to go and attend rehearsals after my school lessons.

I always knew I wanted to be in the arts industry although I didn’t really know what genre I would focus on.

“So when I heard about Khaya Arts, I was excited because we didn’t have any performing arts group at school,” she said.

StarBrite show

“In 2014 we competed in the StarBrite show.

We didn’t do well, but it was an opportunity worth taking up.

In the same year, I was invited individually to be part of the dancers who performed as an opening act at the National Arts Merit Awards that were held in Bulawayo.

National Arts Merit Awards

“Then in 2018, I won the RoilBAA Best Female Dancer award and it was my greatest achievement,” Ncube said.

The talented female dancer who is married to Dube said she has never had to go through the challenges of being married to someone who has different views about her craft as they are in it together.

“I was lucky to be married to an artiste who’s also dedicated to art so I don’t have to worry about the labels that follow women who venture into arts.

His family is also supportive of our craft.

“We’re raising two kids and it is not easy being there for them as a mum, but I’m doing my best.

It’s been a tough journey because we’ve both invested our time into this craft and our lives revolve around shows, so when there are no shows, it’s difficult.

But, we’ve learnt to navigate through and accept that days are never the same,” Ncube said.

She added: “I feel fortunate to have joined the group at a tender age because I could have found myself partaking in things that could have killed my career.

I was blessed because I figured what I wanted to do early as most young people at 14 years, can hardly figure out what they want to do in life.”

Article Source: The Chronicle

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