When Oliver Dairayi Mtukudzi was born in September 1952 in a township on the south of Harare, Highfield, few could fathom the enormous impact he would have on the artistic landscape not only in his native Zimbabwe but throughout the African continent and the world at large. With 64 albums under his belt and a career spanning over four decades, Tuku as he is fondly known by his fans, has had a phenomenal contribution to music and arts development by nurturing young artists at his Pakare Paye Arts Centre.
Pakare Paye means “that place in his native Kore Kore dialect”. Pakare Paye Arts Centre was founded by Oliver Mtukudzi in 2003 for purposes of developing and nurturing young talent in various practical artistic endeavors particularly music, dance, drama, poetry and storytelling. The establishment is geared toward exposing arts-interested individuals, or buildings that rent primarily to artists, galleries, or companies involved in art making.
The center, which opened its doors in 2004, is located in the small and serene town of Norton about 45 kilometres from the capital city along the Harare- Bulawayo highway. Since its establishment, it has grown from strength to strength and is arguably the citadel of arts development, nurturing of talent and career development in modern Zimbabwe. The center also grooms and helps the emerging artists to get organized as business people and equip them with skills to navigate the tough terrains of the music industry.
The 16 acre premises were previously used as a garage warehouse but have since been cleared and cleaned. There was a lot that needed to be done and Tuku Music (Pvt Ltd) could not do this on its own. Juggling between his stage performances, recording and his role as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Oliver Mtukudzi sought help from well-wishers to assist since the center was initiated with the community at heart. He has received several honorary doctorates and is also a long-standing ambassador and advocate of HIV and Aids-related issues. His music has gone beyond Zimbabwean borders and inspiring leaders from government and civil society, as well as parents, to take more positive steps in promoting children’s rights.
Since then, Mtukudzi has not looked back, as aspiring musicians, poets and drama clubs throng the centre to showcase their talents to the famous guitarist, singer and songwriter Oliver Mtukudzi. Notable artists who passed through the corridors of the centre include Charles Chipanga and Munya Mataruse who have become household names in their own right.
The centre is not an out of the world architectural feat but it has the most important features needed for the business. The main features include a state-of-the –art conference center named after Sam Mtukudzi, the legend’s late son who perished in a car accident in 2010. The conference center houses restaurants, lodges, offices, as well as an open-air stage.
The open air stage where other well-known artists like Alick Macheso, the late Tongai Moyo, Sulumani Chimbetu, Kapfupi and Fungisai Zvakavapano, as well as international artists of the likes of Anne Kasiime, Ringo Madlingozi and Bra Hugh Masekela have performed, accommodates 3 000 people. Patrons are entertained as they sip the “holy” waters from the Gokororo Bar. The main hall for performances has 200 seats.
The lodge boasts of 26 double and single rooms. It offers special rates to school and student sport groups should they reserve the full sharing option. You can book your accommodation for wedding guests, golf groups, family re-unions and conferences. Plus you have a choice of a variety of African and international dishes from Daisy’s kitchen.
Since 2011, the arts centre has enrolled more than 100 students drawn from Norton and surrounding areas. In the spirit of nurturing talent and giving encouragement to students to consider arts as a career path, Tuku opting to appointed a board of directors which includes his wife Daisy Mtukudzi, Memory Shamuyarira, Steve Chimbune, Watson Chidzomba, Sam Mataure and Francis Mwendamberi. Students are advised on traits that make a good artiste as well as common challenges within the arts sector.
Some major events that have taken place include the Pakare Paye Annual Solo Festival. Held every September, the festival celebrates solo musicians across the music genres like the indefatigable Steve “Dhongi” Makoni and Tariro Ne Gitare. Running under the theme ‘NdegaZvangu’, the 2014 festival was also meant to celebrate Tuku‘s birthday and the 10th anniversary of Pakare Paye Arts Centre. As part of its development, the arts centre was also said to be in the processes of building lodges in order to cater for international events which would require accommodation for the guests.
Schools which normally attend the event include Marlborough High, Mabelreign Girls High, Harare Girls High, Chiedza Primary, Tafara High, Mabvuku High and St Eric’s High, among others. It is also characterized by representatives from Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, Nyaradzo Group, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and Pakare Paye Arts Center are some of the regular participants at the event.
The venue has not escaped the notice of celebrities and the corporate world. The centre has become a popular social and corporate function venue in Harare. First to come to mind is the wedding of Sharon Macheso (Alick Macheso’s daughter) and Kudakwashe Munetsi in August 2014. The wedding was attended by a number of Zimbabwean personalities.
The center has also received a thumps up from the corporate world as the centre has run and continues to host notable conferences. Several international organisations such as the European Union, Culture Fund and African Arts Institute have hosted successful conferences at the centre. Fourteen different arts managers were awarded with certificates.
“I don’t know how much I have invested on this project but what I know is I have been taking the little I got from live performances to build the place,” said Mtukudzi.