Zimbabwe: Eunice Tava's Long Acting Journey


People got to know much of Eunice Tava after you featured on Jah Prayzah's video Nyeredzi last week. Why is it that with such a big acting portfolio you were not known that much?

Nhoroondo is a four-episode story told by musician Jah Prayzah off his latest offering Gwara.

It started with the releasing of visuals of the song Nyeredzi last Tuesday, the fourth song on the 16-track Gwara album, which was followed by Chimwe Nechimwe and Ndichiyamwa.

Tomorrow the fourth video under the Nhoroondo series will be released to wrap up the project that tries to literalise the song's themes alongside endlessly charming interstitial footage.

A star-studded cast features in the four-party Nhoroondo story and these include Tapiwa Mavindidze, who played the role of VJ in the popular soapie Studio 263, as well as award-winning actress and producer/director Chiratidzochedenga Eunice Chikowore, popularly known as Eunice Tava (pictured) in acting circles.

Standard Style's Moses Mugugunyeki (MM) caught up with Tava (ET), who spoke about her long acting journey as well as her philanthropic work through her humanitarian arm Chedenga Foundation.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

ET: The film industry in Zimbabwe has of late been lowkey as compared to music. There has been lack of distribution that has been limiting us in terms of exposure, but music is readily available on various platforms and Jah Prayzah is a unique musician whose brand is widely recognised and appreciated for his unique talent and the collaborative artistic approach. so being featured on his platform puts one in the limelight. I would like to thank Jah Prayzah for not being selfish with his brand and remembering the professional actors within our sector by using his platform to put us in the limelight.

He has always been an actor himself, he once featured in the movie The Purse and Bhegi Rabvaruka so he is one of us. That's the spirit which is lacking within our sector, to empower and support each other using any available opportunities. Hats off to Jah Prayzah!

MM: How did you get into the Nhoroondo project?

ET: Jah Prayzah himself cast me after he fell in love with my performance of some shoot that we had done for an advert. We were at his home village in Uzumba and after the shoot he told me that he wanted to have me on his album.

I hesitated inwardly, but could not open up to him that I was not comfortable. I thought I was going to be dancing and I knew I'm not a dancer. I was then called for a meeting and they explained what the project was about and I loved the idea. I cried when they were explaining the script because it describes part of my real-life experiences. We then talked about remuneration. I was told of a figure that got me smiling and we got started.

MM: Who actually is Chiratidzochedenga Eunice Chikowore, aka Eunice Tava?

ET: I was born in Kwekwe and grew up in Mhondoro with my mother's family. I went to school in Mhondoro and Bulawayo and I am the only child from my mother. Both my parents are late.

MM: Tell us about your artistic journey, especially the acting side?

ET: From Bulawayo I migrated to Harare and joined the arts industry doing community theatre as a hobby as I was working for GM Chemicals. I then joined Rooftop Promotions where I staged plays at Theatre in the Park. I also worked with Daniel Maposa, Jasen Mphepho, Obrian Mudyiwenyama, Silvanos Mudzvova, Stanley Mambo and Cont Mhlanga who all shaped my acting career.

I then got into film acting so it was a matter of sometimes I'm on stage, at times I'm on set. I then felt there was a gap in the theatre sector, there were not more than four, if not three, female directors in that sector and that's what motivated me to look for opportunities. In 2007 there was a call for young directors, which was hosted by the British Council, and I applied. I got the opportunity to go for training and through this I presented my first play at the Harare International Festival of the Arts titled Election Day, which was written by Chris Mlalazi. It got me an award at Nama.

Since then, I have been directing plays as well as acting. I have staged more than 50 plays here in Zimbabwe and I have staged some of my works at international stages in East Africa, Southern Africa and Europe. I have directed Election Day, Colours of Dreams, Diamonds in Son's Grave, Narratives from the Dark and Blood Tongue. In film, I have featured on Studio 263, Subaru D, Salon.Com, Sinners, Mirage, Chipo The Gift series and The Story of Nehanda, to mention a few.

MM: What inspired to take acting as a career?

ET: Acting is something that I have always enjoyed from primary school and I was privileged to have worked with the people I mentioned above in the theatre sector who then "paid us money" that one could survive on. however, it is not something that I do on full-time basis. I have other trades that you may find me in.

MM: Apart from acting, what else do you do?

ET: When I'm not on stage, you may find me on the desk editing some works. when not on that desk, you may look for me in the studios doing voice-overs (adverts). when I'm not there, I will be in my office for Chedenga Foundation, a charity organisation that I founded.

MM: What challenges have you faced as a female in the arts industry?

ET: Many artistes cry of male dominance, manipulation and other things, but I had a different challenge. Mine has been the "pull-her-down" syndrome by fellow female artistes. There are very few women who have stood by me as compared to female artistes preaching the "Be a sister's keeper/women empowerment gospel". I have respect for those few women whom I will mention.

MM: Tell us about your humanitarian side? What do you do and how long have you been doing that?

ET: I'm the founder of Chedenga Foundation, a charity organisation that helps marginalised children by providing them with basic needs. I have been serving street kids with breakfast and other needs for the past seven years as a self-funded project. I witnessed two street kids whom I used to feed die due to (I guess) msombodhiya. They had grown up living in the streets and their death also made me to focus on helping these kids in the streets and other less privileged kids out there build a future and this is what motivated me to have "Education And Career Mapping", which is one of our programmes. I had wanted to continue doing that in private, but I had a lot of limitations. I then decided to have an organisation registered so that I could reach out to more children around Zimbabwe.

MM: Going forward, what should we expect from you both on the acting and humanitarian sides?

ET: From now expect to see less from the acting side and more on the directing and producing. I have always wanted to lead and there are well established filmmakers who have already set up the ground for me to achieve.

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