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In Conversation with Tendaiishe Chitima

Updated: Jan 16, 2022

I recall two young girls immaculately dressed in school uniform, brimful of dreams and ambition closing out their final day at a high school in Harare, Zimbabwe. Unchartered paths awaiting and life to explore... Fast forward 13 years… I still call her a long-time friend, others know her as Tendaiishe Chitima, a rising Zimbabwean actress, a growing household name on the continent, a powerhouse and a mover and shaker of our generation. Those two young girls, now young women, now sit down in conversation.

Tatenda M: Everything aside, who is Tendaiishe Chitima, the woman in the mirror?

Tendai C: I’m a young woman with big dreams and a lot of faith.

TM: Did you always want to be an actress or did you have other plans?

TC: I went to university to study media – I wanted to be a sports journalist.

TM: What inspired you to become an actress?

TC: I fell in love with drama and decided to pursue acting. It was my love for literature as a teenager that made drama so captivating.

“I saw the words, stories, plays and characters come to life. I wanted to be a part of that.”

TM: What have been some of the challenges of being an actress in Southern Africa?

TC: There have been many, but with the help and support of a long list of God-sent people - in and outside the industry, family and friends - who have believed in me, I’ve been able to overcome them.

To mention a few, finding consistent work is one that cuts across the board. The lack of structure and well-oiled systems in the industry also means that many actors don't know how to build and sustain their careers. Although I’m privileged to have trained and worked in South Africa where there are systems in place that protect, grow and fund the film industry, as well as expose the industry to international players, I’ve had to figure it out on my own for the most part. However, the experiences have helped me think globally and want more out of my career.

TM: What has been your greatest achievement to date in your journey as a creative/actress/activist?

TC: I still have a long way to go in achieving my dreams. However, I should say my greatest achievement has been maintaining my faith and determination after numerous rejections and failures. You know, just defeating the odds and along the way inspiring and helping others to pursue their dreams where I can.

TM: Cook-Off was inspiring and up-lifting - what some would call Zimbabwe’s breakthrough movie. What drew you to the film?

TC: I was told about Cook-Off by Joe Njagu after I’d asked him if he was working on anything I could join. The deciding factor was the script. It was well written and Anesu’s story of pursuing one's dreams resonated with me. Above all, it was a beautiful story set in the city I grew up in.

“I wanted to tell authentic stories about my people.”

TM: What does Cook-Off streaming on Netflix mean for Zimbabwe and its film industry?

TC: It really shows that nothing is impossible, and it also opens limitless possibilities. Our stories are worth telling and people want to watch the films we make.

TM: What does it mean to you to be the lead actress for the film and what does acting mean to you?

TC: Cook-Off was a breakthrough film for me and it really taught me many lessons about God's timing, perseverance, collaboration and following my intuition.

Acting to me is an avenue to make an impact while having fun!

TM: What other movies have you featured in that we must watch?

TC: Besides Cook-Off, I’ve acted in Gonarezhou: The Movie (2020), which is yet to be released to the public. There are more movies in the pipeline though!

TM: Limitations aside, what roles and stories would you want to be involved in or see come to life on the screen?

TC: I want to be in big-budget African action movies like fun fantasy adventure stories that explore our diverse breathtaking African landscapes; African films in which African-made rockets go to space on missions that change the world; films that celebrate the intelligent and successful people on our continent.

“To sum it up, I want to be a part of telling the stories that shape and mould the Africa we have and want to see – films that are not limited in resources or ideas.

TM: What or who has made you the person you are today?

TC: Very focused decisions and actions have brought me this far.

TM: What words of wisdom do you wish someone had told you as a young aspiring creative?

“I wish someone had told me not to be afraid, or to doubt myself.”

TM: What are you most looking forward to this year in the film industry and as an actress?

TC: I look forward to seeing what amazing doors open for me and those I work with; to more collaborations across Africa and beyond; to making people laugh, smile and feel; to validating our human existence through stories.

TM: It’s said, ‘history is being written today and you hold the pen…’ What do you want to be remembered for?

“I want to be remembered for inspiring and helping Africans tell their stories, their way!”

Already named one of Zimbabwe’s outstanding women, keep an eye on Tendaiishe Chitima – an inspiring creative who’s destined for greater heights!

You can watch Cook Off on Netflix. Follow along on Tendai’s journey through her Instagram: tendai_chitima.

Images: Madelein Colin | 2joblessphotographers

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