The Herald (Harare)

10 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Know Your Author - Jenje-Makwenda

Joyce Jenje-Makwenda is a novelist, journalist, television producer who has received a number of awards over the years. Joyce has lived up to the challenge of archiving deeper into the roots of Zimbabwean culture and township music through novels.

A mother of four and a grandmother, she has been very instrumental in promoting the rights of women and the girl child and addressing the trials and tribulations women face in society.

Her most popular writing -- Zimbabwe Township Music -- which is a celebration of old age popular music, which evolved in the colonial urban setting, has become the main text on the history of music.

Joyce's research on township music and her novels have been a fulfillment of her childhood dream and is a timeless and rich source on the evolution and development of music that has uniquely characterised Zimbabwe. She traces the effects of foreign music on early urban settlers from as far back as the 1930s.

The other book "Gupuro" is about traditional divorce and the dilemma of a token payout. Her book Usenzeni highlights the pain, sorrow and problems that see three generations of women stand up to be counted and claim their space in life. Born Joyce Jenje in March 1958 in the Mbare township then called Harare, she was among the third generation of the early urban dwellers.

Her father David Jenje had grown up in Mbare and her paternal grandparents were one of the original inhabitants of the town. He used to narrate tales about the experiences of black Zimbabweans during the early stages of urbanisation.

In attending the various shows, David became fully abreast with the music and musicians of that time. This soon became the back-borne and launching pad for Joyce's quest to research on township music.

Canaan Jenje, the author's mother was the first African female journalist of the late '50s, who played the singular role of monitoring, guiding and nurturing aspiring researchers in the print media.

Initially Joyce's parents had encouraged her to take up music seriously, having noticed her interest, but she, however, opted for arduous research and documentation of Zimbabwean, township music. In 1984, Joyce began her research task on the history of township music. At first it was just a mere collection of interviews from musicians who were popular during 1930-1960.

Her objective was to improve her understanding of the entertainment culture of the earlier generation in urban Zimbabwe. Having amassed adequate information on the country's musical history, Joyce's passionate ambition has been to document it on film.

Joyce who is interested in the empowerment of women, is also working on a Women Musicians of Zimbabwe Book 1930's-2010 and is at designing and printing stage. She is also working on a Women Musicians of Zimbabwe Diary Notebook which is also at designing stage.

Women Musicians of Zimbabwe Children's Book is at the editing stage while her Film Documentary -- Women Musicians of Zimbabwe -- is almost complete.

Joyce was an overall award winner of the Population Development and Gender Writer of The Year 2002 award funded by UNFPA and hosted by Zimbabwe Union of Journalists. She was honoured with a Special Triple T award -- "Tackling taboo topics" which was then a new category at the Gender Links/GEMSA Awards, Gender Mainstreaming in Johannesburg 2010.

She is also studying Sexology with the Academy for Sexology in Pretoria under the long distance learning.

Jenje-Makwenda has become a household name in the arts industry and she has complemented her efforts by establishing a library and archive which houses 27 years of research in music, women's issues, politics, media antics and many more arts collection.

"I established this library because I wanted to promote the culture of appreciating arts, women history and their achievements and to promote community libraries" she said.

Joyce was voted the Reuters Best TV Producer of the year in Entertainment, music, drama at the National Journalist and Media Awards in 1993. The following year she came second best TV Producer of the year at the National Journalistic Awards also sponsored by Reuters.

She also won the Freelance Woman Journalist of the Year for 1999 funded by Unifem and hosted by The Federation of Media Women of Zimbabwe.

Due to the work that she has done in the arts industry, Joyce has been involved in a lot of advisory work and has been a guest speaker on many functions.

Joyce is a member of the Federation of African Media Women (Zimbabwe), the Media Institute of Southern Africa, the Zimbabwe Women Writers and the Women Music Educators of Zimbabwe.

She also works with Mother Earth -- an organisation of women musicians and has also been involved in the foundation and establishment of organisations such as the Women Film Makers of Zimbabwe (WFOZ) founded in 1996, Women Music Educators of Zimbabwe founded in 1999 and her own Joyce Jenje Makwenda's Collection/Archive/Library.

As a mother and grandmother Joyce was not deterred by parenthood and she has continued to further her education. In 1975 Joyce took a dressmaking and designing course and went on to do a public relations course in 1979. She also did a communications course the same year and then in 1982 enrolled for a secretarial course.

She also enrolled for a Diploma in Journalism and Authorship and now she is studying for a Masters Degree in Music.

Joyce who grew up in Mbare says she owes her love for the arts to the way she was raised. To Joyce's family, arts runs in the blood and one of her daughters was part of Albert Nyathi's band that sang the hit song Senzelina. Her other daughter is a journalist.

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