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The Interview: Fulukia decries exploitation of Zim dancers

Simbarashe Norman Fulukia is a Zimbabwean dancer based in Bømlo in the west coast of Norway. He is a professional dancer who feels dancers in Zimbabwe were being exploited and it’s time they come up with a serious dance association that takes care of their needs and welfare. Fulukia says days of unscrupulous promoters and opportunists were over and dancers should run their own show. The Standard Style’s Moses Mugugunyeki (MM) caught up with Fulukia (SNF) and below are excerpts of the interview.

Moses Mugugunyeki

MM: Who is Simbarashe Norman Fulukia?

SNF: Simbarashe Norman Fulukia aka Simba is a proud universal citizen on a mission to spread the philosophy of unhu/ubuntu through dance arts, culture, collaboration and integration. I was born and raised in Mbare. I am married to a Zimbabwean born dance artist, Caroline Rufaro Tedi from Mtapa in Gweru. Together we have two beautiful children.

MM: What do you do for a living?

SNF:I am a professional and trained dancer, trained as an athlete to handle all dance forms or sports movements. At the moment I do contemporary dance using simba fusion (power fusion), which is my personal dance style — a fusion of creative movements deeply influenced by Zimbabwean rhythms.

MM: What drives you?

SNF: I am the definition or testimony of Psalm 113:7 (The creator lifts up the poor from the dirt and raises up the needy from the garbage pile). My professional life is rooted from the dusty streets of Mbare where traditional or folk dance and street theatre were the order of the day. Through hard work and passion, I had the opportunity to come to Norway to further studies in dance arts courtesy of an exchange programme between Dance Foundation Course (Zimbabwe) and Oslo National Academy of Arts (Norway).

MM: What was your training like?

SNF: I did six years of full-time dance education that is three years in Zimbabwe and another three years here in Norway. From August 2009 up to August 2015, I was a member of the Norwegian National Contemporary Dance Company (Carte Blanche) and we travelled all over the world.

MM: How much do you earn as a dancer?

SNF: I earn enough for a living. How much? It is my privacy, but as a professional dancer with experience, I earn a lot more than most graduates in Zimbabwe, Africa and Europe are earning. However, I am a man on a mission who was only given an opportunity to further studies in dance so I don’t believe in dancing for money. I am of the idea of working for the community where I receive appreciation for my passion, in a way contributing to the society at large.

MM: Dancing is not a paying job in Zimbabwe. What do you think should be done to make dancing a paying industry in Zimbabwe?

SNF: Zimbabwe needs to recognise dance art as a profession, the same way they recognise music, soccer and swimming, if dance artists in Zimbabwe are to earn enough for a living. Without such recognition and proper dance unions to represent dance artists, the wish to earn a living through dance will remain a mirage.

MM: Zimbabwe has a number of strip dancers who of late have hogged the limelight on the entertainment scene. Do you think strip dance is the proper way of doing things in Zimbabwe?

SNF: First of all, strip dance is not publicised in televisions, newspapers or other forms of mass media here in Norway or in other European countries like what it is done in Zimbabwe. Strip dance is a commercial type of dance done behind closed doors to entertain imbibers in pubs, clubs or other beer outlets. It is strictly done in private and children below the age of 18 are not allowed to participate.

MM: What do you think should be done to promote dance as an industry globally?

SNF: Most dancers around the world struggle to make ends meet with some juggling from project to project to make a living. I believe dance should be recognised as a profession and no dance artist should toil for peanuts. Dancers should not work for less than the average or normal salary per hour or project.

MM: Where are you based in Norway?

My home is in Bømlo in the west coast of Norway, but my roots and heart is in Zimbabwe.

MM: What actually are you doing in Norway as far as dance is concerned?

SNF: I am the founder of a Norwegian-based non-governmental organisation, Bergen Afro Arts Festival (Baaf), which is also the mother body of Zimbabwe-based Simba Arts Trust (SAT), a non-profit making organisation. SAT is led by writer, motivational speaker and coach Rabison Shumba, football coach, entrepreneur and producer Tendai Zuze Fulukia (my brother), as well as talented performing artist Tinashe Micheal Muza. The group will participate at the forthcoming third edition of Baaf in Norway.

MM: What should Zimbabwe dancers do to improve dance arts in the country?

SNF: There should be a serious dance union or association led by passionate dance artists, not opportunists who only want to benefit at the expense of dancers. The dance union should be an all-inclusive society dealing with all issues to do with dance. Dance artists should mobilise one another and become members who pay subscriptions for administration purposes. They should also consider coming up with dancers’ wage scales and encourage dance artists from signing contracts guided by the association’s rules and regulations. I think dance artists should not be paid less than $20 for an hour or less performance per person. Between $300 and 500 per 45 minutes to an hour is enough for a group, depending on the number of dancers in that particular group.

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