You are currently viewing Unstoppable! Multidisciplinary artist Ndomupeishe Chipendo redefines what it means to lead a sustainable creative career in Zimbabwe
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Written by Tatenda Kanengoni

Every AfriKera intake produces a group of outstanding artists and Ndomupeishe Chipendo, affectionately known as Ndomu, is easily one such product of the AfriKera Professional Dance Training Class of 2012.

Ndomu’s performing arts journey began at a young age. Growing up in a family of artists meant that creativity was a part of her fabric. Her mother worked in the Arts sector which exposed her to many faces of the artform.

“I come from a very musical background, my mom is a music educator and growing up I used to accompany her to the different cultural programs she would host. She was working at the Zimbabwe Association of Music Educators at the time.”

Ndomu quickly immersed herself into the space by joining CHIPAWO, a performic arts program that teaches arts education with a focus on traditional dance from Zimbabwe and beyond. This encounter with dance sowed a seed in Ndomu that would be nurtured not too long after, when she joined Zimbabwe’s only three-year professional dance training program, thanks to her mom.

“In High school, I thrived more in extra-curricular activities and in 2012, my mom encouraged me to audition for AfriKera (then known as the Dance Foundation Course). She actually helped nurture the talent I now have. If she hadn’t done that, I think I would have been a very miserable person working an 8-5 job every day in a corporate space.”

Throughout her time with AfriKera, Ndomu’s hunger for greatness was evident. The institution’s founder and artistic director Soukaina Marie-Laure Edom took note, and often referred to her as the “outstanding student” of her class. Ndomu worked “extremely hard” to maintain first position and her hard work paid off when she was selected to be part of the group that travelled to South Africa to perform in the Baobab Shadows production at the Dance Umbrella which was also staged locally. Ndomu also made the cut to perform Shadows in Belgium.

The intense three-year professional dance training with AfriKera took Ndomu a long way in terms of preparing for life as a performing artist.

“The dance space can be very harsh in Zimbabwe, especially for female dancers and AfriKera helps you to develop a thick skin. The intense program meant going to school from 8am-5pm and sometimes finishing at 8pm, and when it came to me auditioning for things, I had good stamina because of that endurance I learnt from AfriKera. I can endure an 8-8 rehearsal because of AfriKera, I know how it feels to be in a class, to be in a session that long.”

Ndomu’s first test of endurance came not too long after graduating from AfriKera when she was selected for a touring production in Germany.

“In 2017, I had an opportunity to go and perform in Germany on a four-month contract with the Mother Africa production, an African circus based in Germany. I performed as a dancer, singer and instrumentalist playing the mbira and marimba.”

Upon her return to Zimbabwe she decided to professionalise the music side of her career and enrolled for a Certificate in Music with the Music Crossroads Academy of Zimbabwe in 2018, solidifying her career as an “all-rounder.” This resulted in collaborations with singer and songwriter Masa Caroline, with whom she worked as a back-up singer, and performing artist and instrument builder Othnell Mangoma Moyo with whom she worked as a percussionist. Ndomu has also joined musician Hope Masike’s band where she works as a dancer, percussionist, saxophonist and backing vocalist.

2023 has been a monumental year for Ndomu.

“The main highlight this year was the National Arts Merit Awards (NAMA) that I received. I had been trying for about 4 or 5 years, so I now hold 4 NAMA nominations, and one award as an outstanding female dancer.”

Ndomu was also invited to Switzerland for a residency and cultural exchange program in September this year as part of the 60th celebrations of cultural organisation FEPA. While there, she worked with different dance institutions where she taught Zimbabwean traditional dance and hosted dance workshops.

Another important milestone in Ndomu’s career this year has been participating in Music in Africa’s Gender at Work program that helps women professionalise their craft in the live performance space and this includes training in stage management, developing artist liaison skills, sound engineering, light engineering, and artist management. Through this training program, she worked as an artist liaison during the 2023 Jacaranda Music Festival in October, and travelled to Tanzania a few weeks later for a practical training where she worked backstage during the ACCESS 2023 Conference.

The Ndomu train is unstoppable. She has also added Radio producer and presenter to her portfolio and she is currently working with ZiFM stereo.

She looks back at her time at AfriKera as a young determined performer and how that experience prepared her for her current path.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for AfriKera. At AfriKera, you work with people from different backgrounds, you learn how to talk to people, you learn to be versatile. Get me into a hip-hop class, I’m able to perform, even ballet, I have the background. Mother Africa wanted a singer, dancer, and instrumentalist and because of the background that I have, I could go and represent my country very well.”

Ndomu is paying it forward by hosting a series of workshops to help other upcoming dancers professionalise their craft.

“I’ll be hosting a dance business workshop on the 1st of December. I’ve collaborated with Salt N’ Light, another dance brand for the workshop and we invited a keynote speaker Zoyi M’Dane from South Africa. I am planning to do more of those in the future, to educate dancers on how to take dance as a business seriously.”

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