Amakhosi now a regional player
Cont Mhlanga, the man who founded the centre 24 years ago, which remains the only economic anchor for the Arts and Cultural industry in Bulawayo’s business district and the only one of its kind in Zimbabwe, revealed the new developments in an interview with the Southern Times last week. “We are not only known the world over now but our neighbours in the region and further in Africa are now seeking Amakhosi services in areas like theatre and film production”. The Amakhosi director who built Zimbabwe’s first privately owned Cultural Centre located in the boundaries of the Bulawayo’s city Centre and the townships, now popularly known as Township Square Cultural Centre (TSCC), said his organisation was now involved in countries that include Tanzania, Ghana, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique. The Amakhosi founder and director is also responsible for opening of new markets for Amakhosi products which include films, music, books and theatre productions. He said he had established linkages with film producers in Ghana, Bostwana, Sudan and Swaziland whereby they market each other’s products in their respective countries. As a result of this partnership, Mhlanga revealed that a Ghana detective series Inspector Bediako that was marketed by Amakhosi Theatre Productions was due to start running on Zimbabwe Television last Friday and in return their Ghana partners will also seek markets for Amakorokoza in their country. The work of Mhlanga has even achieved acceptance in war torn Sudan where Amakorokoza will be presented in a cartoon magazine form. “Our artists are at an advanced stage of finishing the drawings of the cartoon books on our Amakorokoza series that will be translated into Arabic for the benefit of the Sudanese.” However their biggest and most exciting project is in Botswana where the popular Amakhosi televison soap production could soon be showing after a new television station, Gaborone Broadcasting Corporation is said to have expressed interest in flighting the soap. Bostwana based film production company, Ivonmot ‘ a partner to the Amakhosi initiative of linking with regional arts organisations confirmed the latest developments from Gaborone by telephone on Wednesday. Ivon executive director Yvonne Motsamai said they were impressed with the work of Mhlanga and Amakhosi as she revealed that Mhlanga also helped them produce a Batswana soap series that will be aired on Botswana television (BTV) soon. “Amakorokoza is a very interesting soap and I am sure it will be well received here. There are just a few loose ends to tie up with the television stations here but I am quite confident that it will be screened to the Botswana audience quite soon,” said Motsamai. She spoke very highly about the abilities of Mhlanga as both a director and producer when it came into his input in putting together the Botswana soap series Jungle-Manyaanya ‘ a story about modern day life of a Mostwana. “Jungle Manyaanya is about the successes and pains we go through in our daily lives,” said Ms Motsamai. Mhlanga took his crew of a soundman, production assistant and camera to Botswana when he went to help direct the soap in that country and then returned with the shootings which were edited and produced at Amakhosi Township Cultural Centre. “As I speak we have five episodes that are ready for screening and I am quite sure that this production will be showing on BTV in the next couple of weeks,” said Mhlanga as he prepared to head back to Botswana over the weekend for more shootings with his crew. “As you can see Amakhosi’s work is fast gaining recognition in the world and we now even have some foreign students enrolling at our arts school that we run at our centre. There are two South Africans and a Netherlands student at the Amakhosi Performing Arts Academy that has five departments, Drama, dance, Film, Studio and Arts Management departments. In Swaziland Amakhosi have sent one of their graduates to manage a five year theatre development plan while in Mozambique the Bulawayo based cultural organisation have been engaged on a Consultancy basis to help set up a cultural centre in Chimoio, said Mhlanga. “Our work in the region does not mean that we have stopped promoting culture at home,” said Mhlanga. The Amakhosi founder said there was an even bigger cultural centre than that of Amakhosi being built in Plumtree and Chimanimani. Amakhosi Theatre Productions all female band right from the engineer to the lead vocalist, Amakhosikazi, will also perform at the Harare International festival for the Arts at the end of this month.