Grief as Zimbabwean legendary playwright Chifunyise dies

By Leonard Akida Kamugisha

The art industry in Zambabwe and world over is mourning the death of Africa’s best playwright Stephen Chifunyise, the Zimbabwean library of knowledge as described by a country’s tweeter who died at the age of 70.

According to his nephew Dennis Chifunyise, Stephen succumbed to cancer complications on Monday 5th August, 2019. 

 Born on September 21st, 1948, in Shurugwi, Chifunyise attended university in Zambia and the United States where he graduated with a Masters Degree in Theatre Arts.

He was a huge figure in the arts industry in the formely Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and served for some years as permanent secretary in the Minstry of education, sports and culture.

While in Zambia where he had taken refugee from the white man’s oppressive colonial rule during the 1970s, Chifunyise worked as an actor, director, musician and choreographer. Soon after Zimbabwe attained her independence in 1980 under Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the prolific playwright was given a worm welcome at home where he’s been undertaking his career.

 Over 63 of his plays have been performed on stage, radio and television in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sweden, South Africa, Malawi, India and the UK. 

Chifunyise was the co-founder of the Children’s Performing Arts Workshop (Chipawo) in 1989, which honed the talents of many stars such as Black Panther actress Danai Gurira, the late singer Chiwoniso Maraire and Chipo Chung.

The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, which Chifunyise served from 2004 to 2008, was “enveloped with intense anguish, sadness and complete helplessness” at the passing of the veteran playwright, according to a Facebook post.

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According to Kgosi Nyathi, the director of the Bulawayo Art Gallery, Zimbabwe has lost a great creative writer.

“He was a cultural scholar whose creative wisdom shall be dearly missed. The arts fraternity is poorer.” Kgosi Nyathi said.

Also, publication on the United Nations Security Council (UNESCO) website shows that from around 2010 many of Chifunyise’s scripts in 1970s were broadcast on Zambia Television and, from the 1990s, produced by Rooftop Promotions theatre company in Zimbabwe.

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