Mthabisi Tshuma, Showbiz Correspondent
UMKHATHI Theatre Works will today celebrate 22 years in the arts industry in style with a show at Salukazi Cultural Centre in Njube.
The free event dubbed, “Credisi and Byo Child Fest” is celebrating the group’s anniversary and also aims to groom youngsters into the arts scene from grassroots level.
To entertain crowds, Umkhathi Theatre Works will showcase their new and old dance pieces alongside Jaze D, Cowdray Park High and Eveline Girls High arts groups.
The group’s director, Matesu Dube, said having been in the field since the late 90s, they feel it is now their mandate to nurture up-and-coming talent.
“We’ve been arts practitioners for quite a while now and anytime from now, we might throw in the towel so there’s a need to ensure that when we leave the stage, there’ll be youngsters flourishing.
“The aim of this show is therefore to identify and honour the raw talent we have in the city,” said Dube. He called on potential sponsors to assist with the revival of their Bulawayo Child Festival, an arts development programme meant to nurture rural children. Through this initiative, Umkhathi goes around schools teaching children how to sing, dance and play drums among other skills in order to empower them.
“We have the Bulawayo Child Festival which is a theatre space for children and young people. The main target of this initiative is rural children, but of late, we haven’t been able to conduct the seminars because of lack of funding.
“So, if sponsors come on board, it’ll go a long way and make a huge impact on the arts sector,” he said.
Reflecting on their 22-year journey, Dube said they are satisfied with their achievements and role they have played in the arts industry. But, he bemoaned the economic challenges the country is going through now saying they are affecting the group.
“The journey has been fantastic as we have managed to perform in South Africa, Botswana, Scotland, United States of America, Cote d’Ivoire, and recently in Taiwan. Of late though, the economic challenges have greatly affected us in terms of securing shows, but we hope all will be well soon.”
The arts group, which has performed at several local festivals, had seven members at its inception but now, it has 15. On December 19, still in the spirit of celebrating their anniversary, Umkhathi are set to launch a new theatre production titled Footprints which will narrate their journey since 1997. – @mthabisi_mthire