My first visit to Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton gave me a false impression that it was just a huge complex where music guru, Oliver Mtukudzi, had his offices and probably his recording studios.
It was, however, during my second visit that my curiosity to get to know what the centre was all about welled up within me and together with my colleague, Ano Admire Shumba, a journalist from Zimbo Jam, asked Mtukudzi’s publicist Shepherd Mutamba to give us a tour of the renowned artist’s investments so that we could get to appreciate who he really is.
It then dawned on me while doing the tour of the massive complex, that Mtukudzi was not only a world-renowned musician, but also a serious business person.
As we toured the Pakare Paye Arts centre, we noticed the place was actually big and housed quite a number of projects and to a great extent, told a lot about the character of Mtukudzi himself.
Mutamba then introduced us to a renowned actor, who is also the operations director of Pakare Paye Arts Centre, Watson Chidzomba.
It was Chidzomba who then explained to us Mtukudzi’s vision for giving back to the community and developing all forms of art in Zimbabwe.
“Pakare Paye Arts Centre was established in 2003 and it comprises of the Sam Mtukudzi conference centre, restaurants, lodges, offices, as well as an open-air stage,” said Chidzomba.
“The conference centre which would take in 2 000 delegates is still under construction and there will be a recording studio to be used by any artist wishing to record, as well as a shopping mall,” he said.
“The main reason why we built lodges was because we have hosted international events and each time we found that people had to travel long distances back to Harare at night on dangerous roads, especially when people had taken alcohol. People often asked us why we did not have accommodation nearby and that is how the idea of lodges came about,” said Chidzomba.
He said there would be a total of 33 lodges, most of them being standard rooms, while some were executive lodges.
The open air stage where other well known artists like Alick Macheso, the late Tongai Moyo, Kapfupi and Fungisai Zvakavapano, as well as international artists of the likes of Ringo Madlingozi have performed, takes in 3 000 people. The main hall for performances has 200 seats.
“It is very difficult now to say when the whole project would be completed because the centre is being built as and when we get funds. Mtukudzi has been solely funding the whole project from the money he has been making through music,” he said.
Although it was quite evident the investment would cost the popular musician millions of dollars, Chidzomba could not disclose the full amount.
Two blocks from the lodges being built were already operational and inside they were endowed with expensive wooden furniture and stylish, expensive bed linen.
Lawns and trees were already being grown around the environs of the lodges to make the place more attractive and green.
As we toured the whole project, we noticed Mtukudzi had a taste for other art forms like sculpture.
There were pieces of sculpture dotted all over the place, strategically placed and clearly showing the centre was for artists.
We studied each and every piece and what really caught my eye was one massive statue, which Mutamba said depicted the “unknown musician”.
“The idea is almost similar to the tomb of the unknown soldier at the Heroes’ Acre. This piece of sculpture tells the story of those unknown musicians who sadly passed away,” Mutamba explained.
Commenting about the Pakare Paye Arts Centre, Mtukudzi said the aim of establishing the centre was to continue nurturing and producing different artists.
“This centre is for every artist, even journalists. Just imagine how much it would develop a lot of young Zimbabweans if different artists like sculptors, poets, musicians, authors and even journalists were to utilise this place to teach youngsters different trades. Who knows, maybe those youngsters would even end up developing a Norton newspaper,” said Mtukudzi.
As we walked around, we noticed a young man playing drums and Mtukudzi said budding young musicians often came to practice on his equipment, often under the watchful eye of an instructor. That was done free of charge.
“Our aim is to continue producing artists from this place and that is why we are still expanding it. Unfortunately most aspiring artists cannot afford to come here, especially those from out of Harare. We want artists from all disciplines to access this place so that we can kill the problem of attitude towards art,” he said.
Mtukudzi, a very humble man, refused to call anyone working at Pakare Paye Arts Centre an employee, instead he called them artists.
“There are 25 artists at this centre. Even the cook here is an artist because they are specialists in whatever they do,” he said.
We left the place having leant the lesson of humility from the famous artist who has produced more than 60 albums.