IT was a dark week for the local arts industry after it lost three seasoned entertainers all within a week.
BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
The industry lost Joe Maseko of the House of Rising Sound, Brian Rusike of the famous Pied Pipers and renowned actress Charmaine Mangwende famed for her role as Mai Huni in the popular soap Studio 263.
The popular actress, according to some sources, died on Thursday afternoon in Murewa after a long illness.
Fellow artistes and arts stakeholders have expressed shock at the loss of the gallant entertainers while social networks were abuzz with condolence messages for the performers.
According to friends, Mangwende was buried yesterday in Murewa, after she passed on at St Paul’s Hospital (Musami) in Murewa.
“It is sad, Charmaine Mangwende in no more. She was buried today, (yesterday) in Musami, Murewa. She has not been well for some time and she has finally reposed,” said the source.
In separate interviews with NewsDay Weekender, some of her former soapie mates expressed shock over the death.
Ben Mahaka, an award-winning actor, director and producer who played the role of Tom Mbambo in the same soap opera said Mangwende left a rich legacy having also nurtured a number of upcoming artistes.
“I am deeply saddened by the news. She dedicated her life to film-making and she loved it. She helped to train a lot of people, so she definitely left a strong legacy. It is unfortunate that, like many artistes, she fell upon hard times towards the end. I pray that there is a way that we can build a safety net for retirees in our industry,” he said.
Award-winning actress and politician Tatenda Mavetera (Tendai Jari)who featured on the same soapie with Mangwende said she was a repository of knowledge and was a true feminist who would not want any girl or woman to be taken advantage of.
“We have lost a mother, a sister and friend who mentored us when we started getting into film. We will truly miss her and the arts industry has been robbed of a true arts veteran. May her soul rest in peace,” she said.
Veteran actor and filmmaker Stephen Chigorimbo, aka Mr Huni, described Mangwende as a talented self-taught actress who was willing to learn and managed to be chief in many of the productions she featured in her career.
Music management and marketing company, Jive executive director Benjamin Nyandoro, described Mangwende as an exceptional talent who has left a big void in the arts industry.
“We have learnt with great sadness of the passing on of acting icon Mai Huni. She was an icon whom we shall remember fondly for her role in the prominent series Studio 263. Death brings pain that time can only heal, no words could ease what we truly feel, but with God, her joy is eternally sealed, and we cherish her memories that death can’t even steal,” he said.
Jibilika founder Plot Mhako said; “It is with a heavy heart that I learnt of her passing on. In her (Mangwende) we have lost a woman who made people fall in love with local television and impacted on so many lives through her great acting and motherly role. She will be greatly missed and always remembered.”
Executive producer of popular soap opera Wenera, Eddie Ndhlovu said Mai Huni has been an inspiration not only to fans and actors, but also to them as writers.
“Studio 263 inspired us to build and mold programs like our Wenera automatically Mai Huni was one of those characters I can inspire the former role of Mai Musodza on Wenera. The industry has lost a heroine. If we had an artiste’s heroe’s acre these are the idols that would be buried there,” he said.
Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Network for Economic and Social Transformation Takemore Mazuruse said their hope is that the current generation continues to draw inspiration from the likes of Mai Huni as they continue developing the industry.
“As a network that seeks to promote excellence and productivity in media, business and the arts while fostering economic and social transformation, these are the pacesetters who bridged the gap from the Mukadota and Safirio Madzikatire days to the modern-day productions through unparalleled craftsman in film and theatre,” he said.
“The messages they carried through holding their own in a largely male dominated industry and the values they articulated also helped inspire women to take up their space while dealing with other related social ills like abuse.”
Before making her name from the small screen, Mangwende also had a hand in music having worked with local top reggae outfit Transit Crew and the legendary Pied Pipers.