|Known for||Main actor in the play Umbiko kaMadlenya|
|Parent(s)||White Kishinga Kumbota (Father) and Teresa Mbuyu Kalenga (Mother)|
|Awards||NAMA Outstanding Actor|
Memory Kumbota is a popular Zimbabwean actor who rose to prominence in the 1980s and recently was on stage playing the lead character in the sensational historical play Umbiko kaMadlenya.
Memory Kumbota is a 55-year old man who dedicated his life to being an actor when he could have pursued other lucrative careers. Sacrifices made for his first love, theatre, came early for Kumbota. He remembers the days that his father called him istandari (Nyau/Gule Wamkulu masked dancer) for trying to balance his tertiary education and stage performance.
Kumbota is a man who overlooked other more lucrative careers after finishing his A-levels, choosing instead to make art his life and the stage his home. Kumbota has come a long way from the young man who went against his parent’s wishes, enrolling under the Bulawayo City Council and the Canadian Universities Services Overseas’ flagship Theatre Arts project. Since those days, he has dedicated his whole life to theatre, to an extent that he sometimes wondered if fellow actors, directors and stage props would be the only family he would ever know in life.
“My life in theatre affected me. Right now I’m an old man yet I started having children late. My oldest son is in Form Three. Because of travelling I never had time to build a relationship. I was always here and there. I stayed for a long time as a bachelor to a point where I was wondering whether I would ever have a child,” he said.
Sacrifices made for his first love, theatre, came early for Kumbota. He remembers the days that his father called him istandari (Nyau/Gule Wamkulu masked dancer) for trying to balance his tertiary education and stage performance.
“People who grew up with me in the industry call me ustandari, because I’m of Zambian origin and also because of those people that used to move around dancing. Besides the people I grew up with, most don’t know how I got that name. I got it because my father once said I was behaving like a standari when I’m moving around performing wearing traditional clothing. After my first expensive show I bought him very expensive shoes and gave him money. He loved them to the extent that when he went to a funeral he burnt them when he was moving closer to the fire trying to show off the shoes that had been bought by his son,” he said.
At 55, Kumbota has had time to reflect. He now mentors younger artistes while he prepares for his return to the stage. A self-described shy man, he is as eloquent and polished off-stage as he is on it and this perhaps has led him to be disappointment in some fellow professionals who take seriously the job of being “istandari”.
“It saddens me when artistes try to behave like “artistes” even off stage. They start acting out even in real life like I always say, you don’t see a doctor going around injecting people around town or carrying a stethoscope even in the bar,” he said.
He directed the play Garden of Dreams which tackles mental health issues and was nominated for the Outstanding Director category at the Bulawayo Arts Awards and won the award on 29 June 2019. Memory Kumbota has teamed up with playwright and arts teacher, Thabani Moyo to come up with a theatre acting manual meant to aid local theatre actors. The book titled The Art of Stage Acting: An Actor’s Guide, provides a comprehensive handbook that is a must read for any upcoming stage actor while those already on the stage would benefit from its contents.
Bulawayo-based playwright,Raisedon Baya came up with a production titled The Last Days of A King of Africa directed by Memory Kumbota, which takes a glance at Robert Mugabe’s last days in power and the emergence of Emmerson Mnangagwa as the new leader.
Kumbota said while elated that he was nominated for the first time in Bulawayo, he said people should be alert that they do not churn out art work just to win an award. “There’s a danger that because of these awards people are creating works to win awards. We started off a long time ago when awards weren’t there. If the work is nominated and wins, it ends there (you won’t see it again) or if it isn’t nominated they forget about that work. I just do the work that I do out of passion, if it gets recognition it gets recognition,” said Kumbota. He said whenever he was involved in a production; he was not looking at being nominated but to challenge his abilities.
- Bruce Ndlovu, , The Sunday News, Published: November 10, 2019, Retrieved: January 30, 2020
- Ngqwele Dube, , Sunday News, Published: August 6, 2017, Retrieved: January 30, 2020
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