LOCAL community-rooted transformative arts organisation, Edzai Isu Trust must be treasured for converting a once-disused footbridge at Machipisa shopping centre in Highfield, Harare, to a community theatre venue.
The Theatre paBridge project has ensured that many unemployed youths channel their energy into art by showcasing their talent at this theatre venue.
Today, Edzai Isu Trust celebrates the sixth anniversary of the Theatre paBridge project and has lined up theatre, dance, music, acrobatics and poetry performances to light up the intimate community stage in Highfield.
The journey started when Edzai Isu Trust approached the department of housing and community services at Harare City Council seeking permission to clean up the bridge and establish an arts hub without disturbing, but enhancing the original purpose of the bridge as a pedestrian crossing.
The project got thumbs up and was referred to the department of works — the custodians of the structure which also approved it in principle and a memorandum of understanding is now awaiting finalisation.
With seed funding from Africalia, Edzai Isu Trust enlisted the services of community representatives led by the founder Tafadzwa Muzondo and board chair Patience Tawengwa to clean the bridge after a pre-clean-up awareness campaign around the bridge and the first activity at the bridge took place on October 28, 2016.
Muzondo said the sixth anniversary commemorations this year were dedicated to the trust’s late finance director Felicity Dambudzo Tawengwa.
He described Tawengwa as an accountant and entrepreneur who had passion for arts development in the Highfield community and poverty eradication among rural women in Hwedza.
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“For those that did not know the humble and ever-smiling Felicity who passed away this year on July 22, she was an accountant by profession with over 20 years experience in various management, finance, administration and accounting roles in Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom,” he explained.
“She enjoyed and actively worked on social impact projects to empower local communities through income-generating projects with projects like Mobility for Africa empowering local women with electrical scooters to run their agricultural errands.”
Before the advent of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Theatre paBridge became a space of community entertainment, engagement and empowerment, successfully hosting more than 300 local and international up-and-coming and established artistes.
“Theatre paBridge is our most remarkable innovation in which Edzai Isu Trust regenerated a formerly degenerated footbridge in the heart of one of Zimbabwe’s oldest suburbs, Highfield, into a vibrant community arts space (the first of its kind in Zimbabwe) in 2016,” Muzondo said.
“Some of the notable success stories of Theatre paBridge include offering a springboard for Jungle Boyz who are now based in Turkey and New Generation Youth Association which has gone on to clinch local and international deals after being seen on the Theatre paBridge stage.”
As COVID-19 recedes with the restrictive measures associated with the disease relaxed, Muzondo said they had resumed activities at the bridge.
“Since September we have been holding a show every fortnight and after the sixth anniversary on Friday (today), we want to make it weekly with support from private, public and international organisations,” he noted.
Apart from local performances, Theatre paBridge has also hosted international acts partnering such festivals as the once popular Harare International Festival of the Arts and International Literature Festival during their peak.
The artistes who have performed at Theatre paBridge include Afro-jazz songbird Edith “WeUtonga” Katiji, Progress Chipfumo, Kireni Zulu, poet and singer Albert Nyathi, dendera musician Tryson Chimbetu, TruBantu, Maestrowemhanda and Talking Guitars.
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