BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO
BEIJING-BASED Zimbabwean actress Violet Avoid Madzikanda Gonamombe (30) could have made strides in the local arts industry long back, but remained invisible at her new base in China until recently when she won two accolades.
The former Tiriparwendo actress scooped the Best Mologue Presentation award and Best Script Writing award at Communication University of China and Beijing Film Academy, respectively. Gonamombe, who lives in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, has leveraged on the relationships she has created in the Asian country to establish her studio, Avylet Studios. Her long journey from Dendera Crescent in Rujeko B, Masvingo to Beijing has finally paid off.
Landing in China
“I came here in 2013 searching for greener pastures. It was my friend Lorene Chikwanya who came up with the idea of leaving Zimbabwe because, at that time, resources were very limited in the motherland. I tried the best I could to make it in the industry, but as the economy continued to melt down, it became more difficult to survive as most sponsors withdrew from productions. I stay with my husband Tichaona Madzikanda (32), two daughters — Mazviitaishe (8) and Makanaka (6) — and son Akatendeka (1).
The time I had at Zimbabwe Broadcast Corporation (ZBC) (Pockets Hill Studios) as Teen Scene presenter shaped me to gain confidence. I remember when I was auditioned for Teen Scene, I was a 15-year-old girl from a ghetto school, Seke 1 High in Chitungwiza who looked shabby and had very poor English. Everyone laughed when I made my presentation. So, a cameraman by that time, Freeman Sithole gave me strength when he said it was normal to be scared in front of a camera. When I got back home, I started practising using a cooking stick as a microphone.”
“ZBC gave me another chance and I eventually made it. So, another secret to my success is that I never gave up. Even when I planned to come this side, I did not think of hanging my microphone. I was determined to pursue my dream once settled. So, I applied and was admitted at Beijing Film Academy.”
“I will never forget people like Aaron Chiundura Moyo, who taught me scriptwriting. I would spend the whole day at his house watching him script Tiriparwendo. My best radio personality, Farai ‘Monseng’ Marumani kept on assuring me that I had potential. The late Arnold Shoko taught me television production at Young Africa Skills Centre in Chitungwiza. He is the one who introduced me to Aaron Chiundura Moyo.”
“I get inspired more by American actor, director, producer and screenwriter Tyler Perry. I remember telling my husband that someday we will have dinner with Perry and he laughed. It is a dream that is yet to come true because I really meant it. The story about his life and determination pushes me to work hard for greatness. I feel motivated if I see black people excelling because some people often think that success is for whites. If women like our own Danai Gurira made it, why can’t I ?”
“I have won quite a few so far. My first award was the Speaker of the House award, which I received in 2006 as junior councillor for Chitungwiza. In 2008, I was awarded a national award after participating at the British Council’s Power in the Voice public speaking contest. The most recent are the Best Monologue Presentation and Best Script Writing awards received from Communication University of China and Beijing Film Academy, respectively. The awards were sponsored by China Film Group Corporation.”
Secret to success
“It has been God’s grace from day one. The journey was not easy, but God walked with me through a lot of challenges. Every time I thought of giving up, there was a voice that whispered: ‘If you dare give up, you will regret it for the rest of your life and you will not forgive yourself.’ I would like to believe that it was God speaking. He is the one who deposited the burning passion for arts in me, the passion that would not let me sleep.”
“The relations I created with the likes of Chinese actress Tao Hong, media companies Beijing Dianying Gongsi and CCTV enabled me to start my own studio, Avylet Studios. Our cameraman is called Shao Jia Sen.”
“I am a translator for Mandarin to English and vice-versa. I am also a part-time presenter for a CCTV breakfast show Zao Shang Hao and I am currently writing a book.
“My social interactions are diverse and dynamic. I interact with people of different nationalities from almost all continents. I have made friends from different cultures and beliefs. However, my most treasured place of interest is the church where we meet every Sabbath for worship. There is also a large Zimbabwean community and this makes life easier. Fellow Zimbabweans, assist each other in times of need. We have time to meet to share ideas, play ball games and braai.”
Challenges on foreign soil
“The language barrier was a challenge before I learnt Mandarin. Having difficulties to communicate and express myself. But once I mastered the language, the road became smoother.”
Balancing family and work
“I love my job, but my family comes first. Much of my time since December 2019, I have been working from home due to COVID-19 restrictions. I can go out for shooting three times per week, but my team and I are unable to shoot in other cities because of COVID.”
“I do research online, write scripts from home and only go out when I have to host auditions and shoots. So basically, I have so much time with my family. Although my husband is not into film, he is very supportive such that sometimes he helps me to develop scripts. Since I have set up a home studio, we also do videos as a family that we post on our YouTube channel.”
“When we have night shoots or when filming in another city I usually go with Mazviitaishe because she likes acting. Apart from spending time with family at home, we also go out cycling and my husband enjoys scooter racing.”
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