The AfriKera Dance Training Program ADPT. A ‘centre of excellence’ where dancers develop and master their craft. It also puts a spotlight on individuals with special inherent abilities. Viewed as a leader by professors and peers alike, Tinashe ’Nana’ Chiku is one such individual. A hip hop dancer who gladly took on class responsibilities. Now a graduate, Tinashe immediately found a job as an arts tutor at the Oasis Learners Academy in Rustenburg, South Africa. Before heading South of the border, Tinashe was kind enough to share some of the values and principles that have brought him success.
I’ve known Mrs Soukaina (AfriKera director) for a long time. I once worked for her when she was at the National Ballet of Zimbabwe, operating the Dance Training Program of Zimbabwe (DTZ).
I was one of her hip hop teachers but wasn’t qualified at the time and had to leave for school.
All of my friends have come through the AfriKera Dance Training Program APDT, some of them are teachers, others work outside the country. We share similar stories and energy. I had to come here to be professionally trained and own a certificate, reflecting the things that I fully dedicated and desired to be.
I came for the auditions in 2018, went through the same things that the new intake are going through and, made it. When I got the position, Mrs Soukaina said ‘We are not going to give you the transport allowance, because we really need to see that you are serious. My mind was made up. I was all in for school. I needed something professional in my life.
Putting others first
I’m okay when I see that everyone is ok. At times you question yourself, ‘who is going to look after me?’ but automatically things will click on their own. Mrs Soukaina would come to me before a performance ‘Nana! Where is everyone!’ When it’s time to work she doesn’t accept excuses. I would cover for people, not to prove that I am a good person, but a leader gets their hands dirty before everyone else.
For the graduation, some of us are not used to wearing formal/smart clothes. It’s a very special occasion to graduate after three years. One day I woke up thinking about my classmate Nigel, because his story and mine are the same: We both lost our mothers, while we were in the program. I wanted to sort out something for him, so that he looks amazing on the day. When you are a leader, lead not with the voice but with the heart.
Work/personal life balance
Last year, I lost my mom on a normal school day. I had to call the teachers, ‘today my mom passed away, I’m going to be late.’ Mrs Soukaina was worried, but I told her ‘ma’am I will be pulling through with my position, I will make sure everything works.’
My mom’s sisters whom in our culture we call Musara pa vanha ‘stay with the children’ came in to look after us. This past September, I lost my aunt who took on the role of ‘mother’, during the same week I was performing many roles at the Mitambo festival. When I went to see her body, I could still see my mom. It pulled me down but also up, motivating me to show that I was committed to finish the performances with AfriKera. I have learnt to respect commitment, relationships with people and the family I have.
At the funerals, people were looking after me, so I was coordinating things at the funeral and coming to school. At school, I stayed focused, even though I was still feeling bitter It’s about knowing the value of the things that are important to you.
Someone asked me ‘What are you looking forward to after graduating?’ I said ‘working with the students that I learnt with.’ For me they are already professional, but their individual channels are really different.
It is my wish that we work together at least one more time. We all achieved a specialization in a style, because we would exchange corrections and feedback, it could be the way someone talks or energy they move with.
Amongst the students, I would take Rayne. Throughout these three years, he is someone who I understand. He would come and say ‘Ah Tinashe, I’m failing at this, what can I do?’
At one point someone needs you by their side to share the same energy. The things we learnt together through our creations and duets, were amazing.
Delvin as well. Delvin is someone who I have a strong connection with. I can feel him on stage, even when we are facing opposite directions. We have been practicing lifts and somersaults for the three years so yeah, complete trust. Those two for me, we can create a bomb!
Lead by example
Mrs Soukaina, was sharing stories of how some of us graduates got into the program with the new students. She said I was an example of how to use media for work references, a pioneer that the new intake can measure themselves to aspire to.
The arts tutor job at Oasis, came up because I knew one of the teachers there who used to teach at Blackiston Primary School here in Zimbabwe.
We’ve been chatting, I was sharing videos of my performances and school projects with her. Since I was still at AfriKera, I told Oasis that I needed to finish the program because it gives me professional competences. They waited.
With the new students, I advise them on how to create connections and encourage them to never lose hope. An artist’s life is very hard, it needs courage and people that motivate you.
In loving memory of:
Merina Taero (25/12/1968 – 2/11/20) & Elizabeth Taero (2/9/1972 – 23/92021)
Tears will dry up, but your memory will live forever. I salute you mama, my hero. You fought and sacrificed for the family so that we could have a better life. Rest in eternal peace Amai, everything that I do, is for you. #doingit4MAMA✊