By Dakarai Mashava
Netherlands-based Zimbabwean artist Vimbai Zimuto, pictured, has dropped yet another controversial video titled Handigone.
As has become the norm, the video featuring veteran actor Leroy Gopal, has stirred controversy, with some music fans crticising the former backing vocalist in the late music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi’s Black Spirits of being obsessed with nudity.
Daily News on Sunday’s Features and Magazines Editor Dakarai Mashava recently spoke to the Chitungwiza-born artist on a range of issues including oft-repeated accusations that she uses her art to deliberately stoke up controversy.
Below are excerpts of the interview:
Q: You have been attacked in some quarters for allegedly being obsessed with nudity. What is your response?
A: I have to correct you on the notion that I am obsessed with nudity. I am not obsessed with nudity. Nudity is how I came to earth so how can I be obsessed with something so natural. There is nothing weird about that. People need to understand that I don’t spend my day naked; I don’t walk around naked.
I don’t do that. . . it’s just part of my work. Sometimes I go to fine art classes where they just want me to sit there and draw my body because they love my body. It’s part of art. It has nothing to do with my morality. It has nothing to do with who I am as a girlfriend, wife or mother.
It’s part of my work. I don’t spend my day naked. It’s amazing that people actually think that way. Even when you see me on Instagram I will be telling stories through nude art. . . when you see me seated trying to tell a story through nude art; it’s about the story.
It has nothing to do with Vimbai Zimuto as a person, Vimbai Zimuto as a mother or Vimbai Zimuto in the street. If we understand that then we will get somewhere with our art.
Q: Congratulations on the recent Dutch advertisement that you have described as “as my first advertisement in the EU.” Does it mean you have featured in advertisements elsewhere? What is this particular advert all about?
A: I have always been in advertising. I started while I was at Group Africa Marketing where I did road shows for almost two years. I then did research for companies such as Unilever via Group Africa Marketing.
I did this for almost four years. Soon after high school I went into advertising. I also did radio adverts like voice overs. This particular one in the EU was an impromptu one. The organisers just said we need you, we have been checking your profile.
The advertisement is an encouragement for people to stay positive about the things they do in the neighbourhood or community. It is meant to create oneness in a community. It was amazing to be part of it.
Q: What more should we know about Vimbai the artist as many Zimbabweans view you as a controversial musician who routinely produces provocative music videos?
A: I am an all-rounder. I am actually at home in many disciplines. I do theatre, theatre on stage and theatre on television. I also do stage productions, I am a singer/songwriter, dancer, choreographer, theatre producer and director. You just haven’t seen some of my work either because it is still in the loop or some of it was produced before the era of mobile phones (laughs).
Q: We understand you are a mother of two daughters from your previous marriage to a Dutch national. Do you have plans to remarry?
A: I have a man in my life. Remarrying is very important to me. You will definitely be the first to know when it happens.
Q: Your first two albums Ndawana Mukana (2007) and Kure Kwemso (2013) failed to make the impact you had anticipated. Was this the reason why you decided to do controversial songs like Uya Undibate (featuring Bryan K), Hapana Kwaunoenda and Kupakichwa?
A: I wouldn’t say that because at that stage I was still discovering myself, who I am and what makes me tick.
When you have worked with legends such as the late Oliver Mtukudzi and Tanga weKwaSando it makes it difficult for you to find yourself because of the all-round ability you have. I can sing jazz, opera and choral music. In fact, I am a former member of Chitungwiza Harmony Singers. I can sing and dance traditional music be it shangara, chokoto, mhande… I can do all that. So for the past three years when I began my solo career I went haphazard and tried my hand at everything I could. Then I found my passion; my passion is love and sensual music. I will go for it and this year it will be fireworks.
Q: Is it fair to say that your new strategy is to deliberately stir controversy through your music?
A: No, it’s not deliberate. It’s just part of me. It happens naturally. When you are an artist you just bring out what you have got and people take it the way they want. If people take it as controversial or as seeking attention, then that is what they see.
But all I will be trying to do is to give what I can and be who I am. It is not like I sit down and say ‘I want to stir controversy’ because if that was my aim, then I would have created a whole lot more controversy than is out there. I just put myself on a platter and people take what they want. Eventually, I am sure I will build a community of people who love my music.
Q: What is the main theme of your music?
A: It is difficult to pinpoint the main theme of my music because I am always changing the narrative depending on the mood, feeling and current circumstances, probably what I am thinking and what I am going through in my life.
I wouldn’t say it’s a theme but I concentrate on love and sexuality. I also do songs such as Vasikana Vese where I will be appreciating women and encouraging them to work hard. I am just a story teller because all my songs tell a story. Kurunga is an exception because it basically says let us have fun. About 95 percent of my music has a story to tell.
Q: Can you tell us more about Vtude, your backing band?
A: Vtude is a band of up to nine people depending on the set we have on that particular day. The members are all amazing musicians who are mostly young. Last year five band members graduated, which means I am working with people who are still learning about music.
I can relate with them because I went through the same process too. On bass is Tonderai Chukera, Thabiso Amuli (guitar), Wellington “Wellstrings” Mutepaire (acoustic guitar), Praise Sarireni (drums), Terrence Kwenda (percussion), Mthandazo Bhebhe (piano) and two backing vocalists Nicola Mutuwa and Tendai “Tendex” Madzviti.
I love these guys because they are very supportive and understanding. We are more of a family. Sometimes we do a project and we agree that this particular performance won’t give us anything but it will help us get somewhere. They just understand me and are always there for me. Of course when we earn money we share it as a group. They are a good group and I am blessed to have them.
Q: Ivhu Tribe’s Jasper Mandizera from time to time designs your outfits, why did you settle for him?
A: I think me and Jasper chose each other. I met Jasper when I wanted him for Hapana Kwaunoenda video as a vixen. I didn’t know he was a designer then.
We worked on Hapana Kwaunoenda and I then realised that this guy is amazing; he does amazing stuff with his hands. We started doing stuff together from then on. I think our meeting was dictated by fate. We complement each other creatively. He is also an amazing human being and I am happy to have him in my team.
Q: What are your plans for 2021?
A: It is going to be fireworks. We have a lot of things lined up ― collaborations, videos, music and a lot more which I can’t tell you about because we are still building it up.
Q: What is your advice to many artistes whose work has been grounded by the Covid-19 lockdown?
A: Don’t despair. What you need to do is to adjust to the current situation because this pandemic might be with us for the next three years… so you should not stop your art or creativity because of the lockdown. Try to find your space in your living room, find what you can do with the space you have and try to create something. I just want to encourage everyone to stay at home. Let us mask up and stay at home. The more we mask up and stay at home, the faster this Covid-19 is going to end.