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30 Zimbabweans You Oughta Know

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As you’re probably already aware, it’s been exactly thirty years since Zimbabwe was declared independent. As a new generation gears itself up to take the reins we thought we’d do a head count of thirty young Zimbabweans whose stories and achievements we would rather celebrate as opposed to the doom and gloom the mainstream media enjoys peddling about Zim.

Some we’ve known all along, others we have recently come up on, some are established, some are on their way, all are living examples that despite what we’re told there are people getting on with it, making a difference in their respective arenas just by doing them.

This list is is in no particular order, and is by no means definitive. We invite you to add more names in the comments. We had fun making the selection and hope you will enjoy reading it too.

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Kudzanai Chiurai

If one single person epitomized the Zim 30 as we otherwise refer to this list, Kudzanai  Chiurai would be the one. Born in 1981 Zimbabwe, he was the first black student to graduate with a BA (fine art) from the university of Pretoria in South Africa where he lives in exile after his early works dared challenge and poke fun at president Robert Mugabe’s politics.

This will be the reason he will often be typecast as a political artist.

Certainly there is no escaping the long shadow of Bob over the lives of Zimbabweans in general but we at AfriPOP! are thoroughly enjoying unpacking the many layers densely contained in Kudzi’s Basquiat and Hip-hop -inspired perspective on African politics, urban living, and identity amongst other things.

He has shown his work in cities like Dakar, Melbourne, London, Cape Town and Johannesburg. That main image up top is his work.

Jozi dwellers can catch his latest exhibition Communists and Hot Chicken Wings, The Birth of a Nation at the Goodman Gallery Project Space until 10 May 2010 .

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Danai Gurira

Born in Iowa, raised in Zimbabwe and graduated from New York University, Danai Gurira is a force for African women everywhere. Not only as an actress (The Visitor, Law and Order) but also as a playwright. In The Continuum, a 2006 Pulitzer finalist play which portrays the parallel lives of two women living with AIDS one in LA, the other in Zimbabwe. And that’s been the mould for her more recent play Eclipsed (2009) in which the characters, former Liberian sex  slaves go about life after their respective horror-filled pasts.

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Eska Mtungwadzi

Vocalist, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, Eska is one of the great unsung heroes of British music. In a fair and just world she would be bigger than Amy and Alicia, but for now fans have to be content with her scene-stealing guest appearances with the likes of Tony Allen, Ty and Nitin Sawhney. Or even her own recordings which we wish would culminate into an album already. Check out her Shona-spiced rendition of The Police’s Walking on The Moon here. It will do things to ya!

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Jonathan Khumbulani Nkala

Playwright/actor/musician/comedian Jonathan Nkala’s play The Crossing does two things: It brings home the plight of immigrants in South Africa and reminds one just how resilient the human spirit can be. Nkala plays himself in the one-man play, which retraces his trek from his home in Zimbabwe across the Limpopo river and into South Africa in search of a better life.  Enroute he loses everything (including the best friend he begun the journey with) except his dream. The Crossing ran at the Grahamstown arts festival in South Africa, and is at the Cape Town theatre until 1 May. Jonathan also appears in Disgraceand String Caesar



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Prudence Mabhena

Music By Prudence, the equally devastating and inspiring story about Liyana, a band of 8 Zimbabwean students with varying disabilities who come second in an All Africa music competition, had us in tears even before its recent and rightful Oscar win.

It’s centred around the band leader Prudence Mabhena who suffers horrific neglect and abandonment in her childhood due to arthrogryphosis (a rare disorder that severely deforms the joints of the body) but then comes into herself, finds her singing voice, even composing in five languages, and choreographing dance from her wheelchair.

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Ellah Allfrey

A former senior editor at Jonathan Cape, Allfrey became one of the most powerful women in publishing when she was made deputy editor of literary magazine Granta last year. A tireless champion of new African writing, she has edited the likes of Brian Chikwava and Dinaw Mengestu, and will be on the judging panel of this year’s Caine Prize.

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Thandie Newton

Not a lot of introduction needs to be made about this A-list Zimbabwean/English actress, without a doubt one of the most successful in Britain (where she is based) having proved herself with roles in films like Run Fat Boy Run, The Pursuit of Happiness, her bafta-winning one in Crash and also as Condoleezza Rice in W.

See the rest of the list at AfriPOP!

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