Peter Matika, Senior Life Reporter
IT was in 1986 that expert percussionist-cum-playwright Lewis Ndlovu “accidentally” meandered into the arts industry.
He was just about 10 years old when he discovered that he had a deep underlying passion for the arts, to be precise the performing arts.
His trivial entry, which by all means was not a mistake, as he would have it, was more of an opportunity for him to prove to the world that his so called “troubled” neighbourhood, one of Bulawayo’s oldest suburbs — Makokoba — was and still is endowed with talent.
As he celebrates 40 years of age and 30 years in the arts industry, Lewis, who so happens to be the co-founder of Drums of Peace, recently embarked on a world-wide tour with the stage play Lamentations @12.
He reflected on his journey, which he says won’t end any time soon.
Lewis (LN), who by the way through his artistic endeavours has had the opportunity to meet and perform alongside some of the world’s greatest artistes, such as the world renowned and multi award winning Mexican-American Carlos Santana. He sat down with Sunday Life’s senior reporter Peter Matika (PM) to talk about his journey so far and what the future had in store for him.
PM: It’s always a pleasure to chat with you; I know it’s been about 16 years since you performed on stage, locally that is.
LN: It’s been quite a journey indeed, and true I haven’t been at the forefront of the arts in a while, owing to many commitments I have been engrossed in. This year I make my way back, not only for my sake but that of the arts and art lovers.
I owe it all to Davies Guzha for convincing and bringing me back to the performing stage.
PM: You say you ventured into the arts industry by accident, how?
LN: It is actually quite a funny story. In the early 80’s when we were kids my older brother wanted to practice karate. My mother then paid for his subscriptions at Amakhosi, which used to offer those lessons. However, because he was extremely modest about practicing in front of a crowd he never attended the lessons.
My mother then found out and arranged that I instead use his subscription for what I was interested in arts, since she always assumed that is what I loved. There I learnt performing arts but my passion lay in the drums and that is where the story begins.
PM: Quite the interesting story. I understand you are on a world tour with Guzha, do you care to share the story?
LN: Yes of course, we just returned from Mali a few days ago where we had taken our locally produced stage play Lamentations @12. We met the likes of award winning afro-pop singer-songwriter Salif Keita, who was impressed with the play.
PM: Lamentations @12, what is it all about?
LN: Lamentations @12 is a RoofTop production, written by Vimbayi Munhamo and directed and Produced by Davies Guzha.
It is a story of the stolen age of innocence. It encapsulates through a deliberate trajectory of historical and societal “norms” the lack of growth and change in attitude in various times in the human evolution . . . or lack of it.
Sexually, physically and emotionally abused by society at large, the girl child is still regarded as of less value to their male peers.
The play is made up of a cast of two women, staring Vimbayi Munhamo as lead actress and Dalma Chiwereva who is a dancer and actress. She also doubles up cast as a male character.
PM: And your role in the play?
LN: I support the two by providing sound effects and playing drums for the two vibrant actresses. I am happy to be part of this world touring project now with a focus on African countries and next will be Europe and the Scandinavian. Two weeks ago we were in Tanzania at the NAFAS ART SPACE for the first time. I was also the first time a theatre from Zimbabwe staged there.
PM: You know I still hold a grudge with you, all these countries, apart from tagging me along, you have never brought me a souvenir. You were not quite elaborate about the Mali trip?
LN: (Laughing) next time my friend. Anyway last week we were in Mali. It was quite a wonderful experience and once again theatre from Zimbabwe to be performed at Festival Sue Le Niger, a French speaking country.
There we met a lot of great artistes and international musicians such as Aly Keita the Balafon Master. There as Drums of Peace we managed to forge a deal, where we are preparing for huge drum camp with Aly.
PM: Apart from touring the world and meeting all these bodacious people what have you done perhaps to make sure that you impart what you have learnt or perhaps to nurture talent?
LN: I am glad you asked that, I have set up a programme for the youth and all those interested in drumming. We hold lessons and many other activities at Thabiso youth Centre in Makokoba.
PM: That is pleasing to know that you are concerned about keeping the talent alive and your legacy as well. It’s been a pleasure, keep it up.