PREPARATIONS for commemorations of the late playwright and cultural activist, Stephen Chifunyise, who died on August 5, 2019 are at advanced stage.
The Children’s Performing Arts Workshop (Chipawo) has announced the preparations.
Chifunyise died last year after succumbing to cancer. He was affectionately known as “Uncle Steve”, a moniker derived from his television programmes where he read and told stories to children.
Together with Robert McLaren, they co-founded Chipawo in the 1980s with the brief of identifying and nurturing young talent in performing arts.
The commemorations will see Chipawo children celebrating his works through performance plays online.
The commemorations will be held on August 5 and will coincide with the second year of Southern African Festival for Children and Young People (SAFE) festival, which runs from August 5-8 2020.
In an interview, Chipawo manager, Chipo Basopo, said rehearsals are taking place online, with all so far going according to plan.
“Next week as Chipawo we are going to be celebrating a life well lived. The life of our dear beloved Uncle Steve — the late Stephen Chifunyise. It will be one year since he was gone and we miss him dearly”, she said.
He died at the age of 70. Chipawo is also going to celebrate the second year of SAFE Festival. Chifunyise was part of the initiative of the festival. Chipawo vows to continue the legacy.
Basopo said children will be entertained by Chifunyise’s storytelling recordings.
“Our team is busy gathering Uncle Steve’s works and they will be played online on our social media pages. We will have some of the plays he wrote too.
“We are currently working on the SAFE Festival and we have a participatory production coming up soon, which is based on Gender-Based Violence,” she explained.
On living under lockdown, Basopo said they were using the opportunity to create new ideas and give children time and space to be themselves.
“Like everyone else, we have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. We are locked down at home. We urge children to stay safe and be at home always. It is a world pandemic and Chipawo children felt the impact but that doesn’t stop us from creating online content.
“We have been keeping our children busy and we have been able to celebrate important days such as Africa Day, Day of the African Child and Mandela Day, as well as posting positive messages giving hope to everyone at home. We give the children tasks to do so that they are not always on the road playing.”
Their year had already been disrupted because they had planned trips and festivals abroad.
“It is sad that half of the year is gone and some of our planned trips abroad have been cancelled because of the pandemic. Our kids were so hurt and disappointed but it was a blessing in disguise as it now gives us time to prepare well,” she said.
Last week Chipawo paid tribute to the late mbira songstress Chiwoniso Maraire through a cover version of her track, Vana Vanogwara, which is also dedicated to COVID-19 patients.
They sent messages and performed a song on virtual platforms.
Maraire died on July 24, 2014.
“Kindly note we have no rights to this song and the video is not for profit-making, we decided to remember Chiwoniso as she was one of our successful products. Vana Vanogwara speaks volumes to what is happening around the world due to Covid-19.
“We need to unite and fight this pandemic, hence people should observe what the World Health Organisation is advising,” said Basopo.