HAVING first come to Zimbabwe in May of this year, the Berlin-based theatre company — Theatre Strahl — have taken to Bulawayo’s cultural heritage like a fish to water and have acknowledged the edge it has given their production, Black and White Ain’t No Colour.
The Berliners produced the play with local award winning theatre outfit, Iyasa and have already staged two shows in Bulawayo.
Led by director Anna Vera Kelle, the six-man team said they had experienced a culture shock on arriving in Zimbabwe, but had managed to use these experiences to good effect in the play.
“I was instantly blown away by the energy and power of dance and song and knew right there and then that I wanted to portray the same in my work with the play,” said Derek Tafadzwa Nowak.
Nowak was born in Zimbabwe at Harare’s Parirenyatwa Hospital, but lost his mother at birth and was adopted by German doctors who worked at the hospital. The young boy did not get a chance to know his father as none at the hospital had information about anyone else besides his mother.
Nowak’s fellow actor Raphael Schmishke agreed with his colleague adding that the cultural shock had helped him add a new dimension to his work. He said the cultural differences helped him get over the fear of coming to a new country and continent for the first time and this had a direct impact on work on the stage.
“I have been to a few countries, but this was my first trip to Africa and Zimbabwe in particular so I didn’t know what to expect. However, the culture of the people, their patience, and their homeliness helped get over my fears.
“This ultimately helped me get over any fear of an audience that I didn’t know how to get through to,” Schmishke said.
Kelle was charmed by the welcome they received from Bulawayo residents. She said in Germany, most people never stop to chat with strangers, but everyone they had met since arriving in the city had been genial and willing to go the extra mile to make them feel comfortable.
“I was surprised at the way Bulawayo people seem to never get tired of being nice. They talk to everyone and to me, that was a pleasant surprise. In Germany, I’d never talk to a stranger. It’s an interesting cultural difference, one that I believe can be used in art to show that cultural diversity does not translate to fighting or a failure to get along,” Kelle revealed.
The play is directed by Kelle while the music and choreography was produced by Iyasa’s Nkululeko Innocent Dube. The full cast comprises the German trio of Beate Fischer, Schmishke and Nowak, while Isheanesu Caroline Dzvairo, Newman Trinidad Gondwe and Dorcas Ngwenya represent Iyasa.
It is about three Germans and three Zimbabweans who find themselves caught in two worlds. In between their cultures, they build a utopian society of their own. The play is loaded with humour, dance and music with the ensemble dealing with societal prejudices and cultural diversities. It raises a lot of questions such as: How do prejudices and cultural diversities affect our perspectives when we encounter new environments and different people? Do we create new images?
With courage and honesty, the artists meet each other eye to eye and deal with the topics of hope, fear, freedom, community, faith and money. They seem to conclude that we are different but the same.
It was well received in Bulawayo and heads to Harare with high expectations. The show will headline a night of theatre at the Theatre in the Park.