Zimbabwean jazz songstress Dudu Manhenga recently concluded her maiden tour of Italy.
The three week tour was very successful and NewsDay correspondent Munya Simango (ND) took some time for a conversation with the Italian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, His Excellency Stefano Moscatelli (SM) about the tour and the cultural interaction between Italy and Zimbabwe.
ND: Your Excellency, thank you for your time, what role did the Italian Embassy play to make this tour possible?
SM: The Embassy facilitated contacts between Dudu and Italian musicians and producers. As some of them had already worked with her, they were well aware of her great artistic talent and realising her attraction to the Italian public, they organised this tour for her. I must mention that Dudu has always generously given of her time and artistic collaboration when the Embassy organises concerts and being such a great friend of Italy meant that sooner or later she would naturally have to tour Italy.
ND: Are there going to be tours for other Zimbabwean artists in the future?
SM: Should the opportunity arise again, of course. One of the main tasks of a diplomatic mission is the organisation of events aimed at promoting the culture of the country but this does not mean only the culture of that country in the host country. Cultural exchange is only successful when it works both ways, in other words, Italian art in Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean art in Italy.
ND: How has the Italian Government supported the arts in Zimbabwe?
SM: Every year Italy brings a certain number of artists, particularly musicians, to Zimbabwe to take part in Hifa, the Harare Jazz Festival and the Italian Jazz Festival. During their time in the country they also hold seminars and workshops for the benefit of local school children as well as the Zimbabwe College of Music. Our artists often perform with local well known celebrities like Oliver Mtukudzi and others.
It is also worth mentioning that this year the Embassy worked closely with the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture in support of Zimbabwe’s candidature to the Venice Biennial Exhibition and, having achieved the result, we are proud of the fact that for the first time, Zimbabwe was present at the event with its own stand.
Futhermore, earlier this year, in celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the Unity of Italy, the Embassy organised a classical music concert which combined the world — renowned talents of Zimbabwean concert pianist Manuel Bagorro with those of Italian flautist Francesca Canali. The National Gallery of Zimbabwe was specifically chosen as the venue for the concert for its natural acoustics but more especially in order to showcase its collection of art by Italian masters.
ND: What other initiatives are planned for the future?
SM: We are currently planning the Italian Jazz Festival in October, which has now become a regular date, with new artists and new sponsors. We are also already working on next year’s Hifa programme with the aim of attracting even bigger names from Italy. We have a few well known performers in mind but it might be too early to talk about them. It will, in any case, be a surprise.
ND: What has been your experience with the arts sector in Zimbabwe?
SM: The experiences of the past five years have made it very apparent that there is talent in Zimbabwe and any artist needs the opportunity to express his or her artistic abilities, be they musical, sculptural or figurative, in different environments. As a country with very close ties to the world of the arts, Italy is always keen to promote local traditions and often, particularly in the case of Zimbabwe and thanks to the support of the business world, these artists even have the opportunity to benefit from international exposure.
ND: Your Excellency, thank you once again for your time and for your facilitation of meaningful cultural exchange between Italy and Zimbabwe.