A Zimbabwean student has been featured in Rare Rising Stars 2020, the UK’s Top Ten Black Students owing to her participation in different community initiatives.
Tanatsei Gambura, an Intermedia Arts student with University of Edinburgh, is an art and youth activist and was recently shortlisted for the inaugural Amsterdam Open Book Prize and has just been announced as its runner-up.
In an interview, she said:
“When I turned 14, despite the government funding, school became unaffordable and I was forced to spend a year out of education.
“This was a pivotal moment for me, as I realised that I couldn’t continue to be dependent on others for the rest of my life.
“At this time, I went into survival mode and channelled that energy into building myself a social network of like-minded people.
“I also started looking for ways to be more active within the community and discovered the beginning of a lifelong interest in the arts.
“When I returned to school aged 15, I became heavily involved in theatre and the arts, to the extent that my work was selected by the British Council for a photography and poetry residency called These Images are Stories, which ran in London for 8 months.”
At the age of 17, she was nominated to receive a generous scholarship to study at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, where she completed her two-year programme.
“If you don’t come from a background of privilege, you don’t have people to fall back or rely on as nothing has been handed to them, so they have nothing to give you,” she said.
Before moving to South Africa, Tanatsei founded the 25 May Movement, a collective of artists, community organisers, social workers and cultural producers collaborating to lead social change in Africa.
“The aim is to build a vibrant, dynamic and sustainable creative sector that contributes to development in Africa and for me this was my attempt to create an awareness and sense of responsibility for people in my community about the future of the continent.
“The 25 May Movement strategy is to integrate arts and culture into a comprehensive plan designed to shift public sentiment and forge a new collective consensus around a social challenge.
“Its programmes offer week-long workshops, celebrations and community gatherings on socio-political themes such as colourism, African masculinity, dissecting the urgency of voice and a dialogue for peacebuilding,” added Tanatsei.
Gambura ran four such events herself in Zimbabwe last year, with over 70 people in attendance.
“In 2016, the 25 May Movement was simply a group of girls who banded together behind a camera to proclaim a pan-African stance.
“Today I have led my team in running a nationwide radio broadcasting series, facilitated conversation circles to foster dialogue, and programmed free and accessible workshops.
“With a staff of five female volunteers, my collective now has an online reach of over 60,000 people and has attracted the attention of organisations such as the Goethe Institute, the Swedish Embassy and the Impact Hub exchange programme.
“In 2018, I was invited onto the board of directors of ROOTS Africa, a non-profit organisation working towards the promotion of economic and social justice among young people in rural and mining communities, where I now serve as the youngest advisor.
“That same year, I was appointed an advisor by the Global Fund for Women to advise on key issues women and young people are facing in Zimbabwe.”
Last year, she was the recipient of the Diana Award for humanitarian work.
“In December 2018, I was selected by the United Nations Women for a Gender in a Changing Context panel where she was the youngest woman on the panel.”
“I have also been a member of the student council of the World Leading Schools Association for the past two years.
“I was in the process of programming a workshop for their conference this year to be held in Toronto with around 300 of their members.
“Iwas also selected as one of eight high-achieving Mastercard Foundation scholarship recipients from Zimbabwe, which enables me to read Intermedia Art at the University of Edinburgh.,” she added.
Gambura, has co-founded a project called Ourchives which is an interdisciplinary decolonial project based in Edinburgh that attempts to draw light on urgent debates on the provenance and afterlife of cultural objects from formerly colonised spaces in Scotland and beyond.