BY SHARON SIBINDI
They say like wine, they get better with age, so does Matesu Dube — an award-winning theatre arts director. Dube has been in the showbiz industry for 29 years and directs the multi-award winning Umkhathi Theatre Works.
He has directed productions like the play Ihloka, written by Thabani Moyo, Footprints — a musical traditional dance show hinged on African performing arts including poetry, chants, storytelling and rituals, Bloom Bloom — an African dance show which celebrates the arrival of the spring among others.
He has also produced work, which has been presented at international festivals like the recent Surajkund Crafts Mela International Festival in New Delhi, India where Umkhathi Theatre Works represented Zimbabwe.
Dube is pursuing for a degree in Film, Television and Media studies at Lupane State University and wants to venture into documentary film. He speaks about his life outside the theatre industry and other matters.
How it started
“I got into theatre arts in the early 90s after finishing my O’ Level at Njube High school. I have never done another job besides the arts.”
“I joined Young Warriors Theatre Company in 1993 under the directorship of the late Norman Takawira; this is where I learnt all the basics. I started as a performing artist, an actor and dancer. Then we would perform in schools around Zimbabwe. Our acts took us to places like Hwange, Victoria Falls, Zvishavane, Mberengwa, Bindura and Shamva just to name a few.”
“We also had the opportunity to tour Zambia and Namibia. Young Warriors was doing more theatre than dance. I was at Young Warriors for four years and the group folded when Norman Takawira left for Harare to take up a job at the Zimbabwe Association of Theatre Children and Young People.”
“A few months after he left, Young Warriors Theatre Company couldn’t continue.
“We then came together to form Umkhathi, it was seven of us myself, Maqhawe Moyo, Alexander Mhlanga, Richard Mahachi, Mthandazo Sithole (late), John Phiri and Tsoka Ndlovu, this was in 1997.
“This is when I became director. In my journey with Umkhathi, I have managed to produce award-winning shows at the National Arts Merit Awards and the Bulawayo Arts Awards. In 2017 I got the Outstanding Theatre Director at Nama. I also got a BAA for Outstanding Theatre Director in 2018 for the show Ihloka. In 2021, I was named as one of the 40 arts legends in Zimbabwe to mark Zimbabwe’s 40th anniversary.”
“My passion is to see theatre arts improving and getting to some levels where our productions can be showcased alongside international productions.
“I’m talking about shows that have all the ingredients, sound, lighting, and set and well rehearsed in performance venues. My dream is to learn more presentation skills that I can use to improve my productions.”
Keeps the legacy going!
“I look up to the guys that I work with at Umkhathi to keep my legacy going, I started working with some of them when they were still at school when they were in our junior team. They know what is expected of them and what we want to achieve as Umkhathi.”
“The secret is concentrating on what you are doing and put your energy there. We need to work well with our members so that they understand what we are trying to achieve at the end of the day.”
“Everyone is important in a production, if you let them feel that they are part of the production process you will achieve what you want and your work will be great.”
“On my spare time I do sound recording for film and I also record radio plays.”
Ups and downs in the sector
“My ups include producing works that are well-received by audiences internationally, in countries that include United States, Scotland, Côte d’Ivoire and India.
“My downs have been the economic meltdown that causes members to leave to look for work in other countries.”
“In 1998 there was an audition to select groups to perform for dignitaries at the official launch of the Blue Train, the auditions were held at Amakhosi, Umkhathi was one year old, but we beat all the experienced dance groups that were there.”
“Performing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in the US is also one of my best moments. Another best moment was being crowned the Chibuku Neshamwari winners in Harare in 2013 and also being named amongst the 40 arts legends in Zimbabwe.”
Projects off the theatre industry
“It’s not a project though; I’m currently studying for a degree in Film, Television and Media studies at Lupane State University. After that I want to venture into documentary film.”
For every experience you get: What are the biggest things you have learnt?
“Be humble and learn to share expertise with others.”