AMONGST the audience of Lumumba Theatre's presentation last Friday, at the Russian Culture Centre in Dar es Salaam was the Member of Parliament for Kigoma North (Chadema), Kabwe Zuberi Zitto, who is popularly known as Zitto Kabwe or just Zitto.
In fact, had it not been mentioned by the Master of Ceremonies (MC), Evans Bukuku, that he was present in the front row with some members of his family, his presence might have gone undetected by the majority of people, who crowded the main hall there, which was much too small for the number of people, who came to see what new this group of artistes had come with.
No doubt, when the first opportunity presented itself to approach the popular MP, the 'Daily News' opened the conversation with a question as to why he had come to the show. After-all, such a dignitary could have chosen not to mix with members of the public in such an open and common space, where he was just another member of the audience. However, he immediately answered without hesitation.
"It is a must that we cherish our culture. The work these youngsters are doing is to promote our culture. This is something that is disappearing and once it's gone, it cannot be restored. So it's a must for us leaders to show them support in whatever way we can, together with encouraging them, so that our art becomes first of all somewhere to promote our culture but also a place of employment for our youth," Zitto replied.
He also expressed his feelings that had the performance been presented in Europe it would have brought in much money for the artistes, who had presented their production "Focus On Me" to the audience free of any charge. This is another reason, which demonstrates how important it is to build the local culture in such a way that the youth are kept busy, while at the same time they are maintaining it.
When Bukuku was approached, after the performance he referred to it, as being "an amazing show" in which he was surprised to see the high level of creativity and versatility demonstrated. He found it amazing to be able to keep so many people packed in the hall, despite the heat for the whole 90 minutes of the production. The fact that 95 per cent stayed right through, he believes was a big positive sign for a local production. However, he was a little disappointed that there were not, more indigenous people amongst the audience.
"This means that on one side we need to support each other more, in terms of endeavours that others do. On the other hand we also need to localise our content so that it can be relative to the ordinary Tom, Dick and Harry. I am a creator, who was inspired by this, which had a small element of comedy. With this we can definitely go somewhere," he said in a serious tone.
The Stand-up Comedian, who is the director of Vuvuzela Entertainment, went on to talk about there being a need for local artistes and stakeholders to help and support each other, while exchanging information, ideas, finance, and generally-speaking, doing whatever they can to keep things moving in a positive way. He maintains that this cannot be done alone and stressed the necessity to localise, which is not something that can happen overnight, despite his confidence that it can happen.
After the presentation, when members of the audience were given the chance to say what they thought of the production, the local artist and Managing Director of Trinity Promotions, Sauda Simba, was one who stood-up to share her views. She mentioned finding the production to be "fantastic because it moved beyond the traditional stuff that is commonly shown here and included an extent of fusion, which brought in tap dancing, plus a touch of South Africa without forgetting the local culture. It was well coordinated and the choreography was fantastic".
For her, it also brought about once again the need for a national theatre, where artistes could have better facilities to present their performances comfortably and the audience could also seat contentedly. She felt very strongly that the show needs to go beyond this venue in the city so that it can get a bigger audience and exposure. Getting Zitto to agree that it will go to Dodoma is one of the things that really pleased her. Local leaders should see such shows so that leaders could see the work that people are doing in culture, which needs their support, she believes. However, she did have a word of warning.
"We're still lagging in a way, where we have so much raw talent but it's always scrambling for sponsors here and there. We need a proper fund where people can submit their works and do shows like this, without putting in a lot of energy and tireless effort for nothing, in the sense of a financial reward. They have to look for a thousand sponsors because people are giving very little," she explained.
Her colleague Lian Martin Pollock, one of the Directors of Trinity Promotions, found the energy of the show to have "pushed the envelope" to another level, as to what a local company can achieve and what others should aspire to. According to her, it was a feather in the artistes' caps that they had so many people there to witness their presentation, which she referred to as being "a huge achievement".
Lian also concurs with all those gunning for government and national theatre support. She made reference to developing a local culture where not only 250 people would come to a production that is free of any entrance charge, where they may donate something, but one where they actually pay money to enter, for that is where the industry needs to be pushed, so that that there can be a sustainable income for artistes. Her eleven-year-old daughter also thought the show was nice and had a special liking for the dancers, who displayed much strength in her opinion.
The production's Director, Isack Peter Abeneko, a local contemporary dancer and choreographer, told the 'Daily News' the basis of the creation is to bring "fusion in culture without confusion". The idea behind it is for everyone to recognise their culture. This also means to let everyone know that other people are looking at them. It's a trick that they have used to say "Focus on me" because everyone wants the focus on themselves. So they have said focus on them (Lumumba), while at the same time the audience wants to focus on themselves.