Everyone in Chitungwiza calls it the Artists’ Corner. Some call it the Corner of Idle Kids but to me it is Corner of Hope. Started in March 2010 by one of the residents of Chitungwiza, Tawanda Munyeza, the Artists’ Corner has become more than just a place of hope for the hopeless youths of Chitungwiza. In a country where there is a very high unemployment rate, it is the beacon of hope and salvation from the seemingly endless problems faced by the poor children and young adults. It is where those little souls as young as five are being equipped with skills to help them face the fierce world which seeks to devour and eat up all those who are less fortunate. Many of the ghetto youths have thus been saved from the snare of alcoholism, drug abuse and lawlessness by this Centre. In the early years many people believed it would become a failed project but Tawanda Munyeza never gave up on his vision of providing an alternate future and better tomorrow for the youths.
Uncle Tawaz, as he is popularly known in the ghetto, grew up in the same dust streets of Chitungwiza that have become a major attraction to the youths, facing the same problems they face today but somehow he managed to escape from the temptations. He, however, did not forget his people and he managed to sow back into the community that helped him succeed. Uncle Tawaz built the Centre with the help of his two younger brothers but recent improvements and renovations have been done by professional builders.
Initially when the Artists’ Corner was started it was just a single room but it has been extended to accommodate more and more artists. The Centre is home to a number of artists in various trades including musicians, sculptors and painters. Each day people from all over Chitungwiza come to see the marvelous work being done at the Artists’ Corner and be part of the great community. Those who are more fortunate financially actually got to the extent of donating funds to the Centre after bearing witness to the abundant talent housed there.
Located by the roadside the Centre can be clearly seen by passersby due to its beautiful and colorful walls. The most impressive art at the Centre is the graffiti on these walls. The walls were painted by various graffiti artists at the Centre. The message conveyed by the graffiti is a touching one telling the story of the struggles of the ghetto and hope for a better and fruitful tomorrow. Inside the Centre are impressive sculptures all over the yard. The biggest building in the Centre is the Tawanda Munyeza Exhibition Hall which hosts all of the events held at the Centre except for those held outdoors. On Thursdays, Uncle Tawaz hosts Freestyle Night for the musicians, most of whom are less popular but very talented. Different promoters attend the Freestyle Nights looking for musicians to sign. Once musicians blossom, they leave the Centre to enable them to spread their wings on their own leaving room for new musicians to be mentored as well. The musicians, however, don’t forget where they came from but plough back also. On Fridays exhibitions are held for the sculptors and painters to showcase their works. The exhibitions attract large crowds. Recently, the Artists’ Corner became a venue for comedy shows. The shows never cease to bring laughter to souls of all ages. In August and December, auctions are held for the sculptors and painters. At one time a sculpture was sold for five thousand dollars.
The Centre has not been without its fair share of problems. Due to the ever expanding crowds, the Exhibition Hall is fast becoming inadequate to accommodate the numbers. Apart from the financial problems, early in July 2014, the Centre faced its greatest challenge to date when the Chitungwiza Town Council threatened to demolish the facility. Crippling demonstration were held that prompted the council to rethink their position. It is this resilience that led the Artists’ Corner to receive a number of awards for its contribution towards art in Zimbabwe. Tawanda Munyeza has also been awarded for empowering and encouraging the youths to desist from idleness and tomfoolery and use every little bit of talent for the betterment of their families. Many of the artists are now breadwinners in their families.
The very first time I visited the Centre was in 2015. I was able to meet Tawanda Munyeza face to face. His humility is the very reason that the Artists’ Corner has become the tourist attraction it is today. With him at the helm, the Centre is surely set to continue to soar even up higher.
Author: Kudakwashe Chirapa, Harare, Zimbabwe