By Grant Moyo
As Africans we are accustomed to sharing wisdom by passing down our stories and history orally. The ZimExcellence podcast show is a continuation of that tradition in an effort to elevate and redefine the Zimbabwean narrative, says New York-based Zimbabwean actress Vongai Shava.
The international actress who often describes herself as “upcoming” in the sense that she is on the rise and not yet a household name, is the host of the podcast show which she recently launched under her media firm, Culturelle Productions.
By entering the audio space, Shava believes in her capacity to trip into the beauty of podcasts which lie in the personal intimate experience that allows listeners to take heed at their own pace and time.
ZimExcellence will spotlight the careers of Zimbabweans achieving greatness across the world. The podcast show seeks to inspire the younger generation by showing them positive representations of what is possible and an affirmative portrayal of Zimbabwe’s rich culture for the world to recognise.
The idea was motivated out of a desire to unite the Zimbabwean community as well as a need for representation and educational information that Shava wished she had growing up. Shava’s podcast is produced under Culturelle Productions, a media company dedicated to telling and sharing empowering stories about women and increasing multicultural representation in the media.
The firm’s vision is to also advocate and empower African artistes by creating platforms for them to share their stories with the world, reaching audiences through the mediums of film, television, video, podcast and literary publishing.
“I wanted to create a podcast that mattered to me, and share some much-needed perspectives that might have been previously inaccessible,” Shava told Standard Style.
“I believe there are leaders among Zimbabweans in various fields and ‘ZimExcellence’ has an opportunity to amplify and make known who they are. I have frequently learned so much from stories regarding people’s upbringings and career journeys.
“There is so much wisdom to gain from the previous generations because it is knowing where we come from that allows us to make sense of where we are going.
“The podcast is about the Zimbabwe we don’t hear and see enough of, a country that has been showcased to the world time and time again as poverty-stricken, full of conflict and sorrow. I know of a Zimbabwe filled with a rich culture, resilient people and joy that equally exist.”
On ZimExcellence, the guests will have honest and relatable conversations about the ups and downs of their careers.
Shava hopes to make information about different career paths more accessible and also create an archive sharing positive examples of who Zimbabweans are and can be, if they dare to dream and take inspired action.
She is of the notion that with access to the right opportunities, Zimbabweans are capable of greatness.
Guests will unpack how they got their break in their respective professions.
Spotlight shall be put on what the guests did when opportunity presented itself and what it means to go further than the past generation, success and development-wise.
“I believe the modern-day generation has the opportunity to preserve our African history and innovate our culture,” she said.
“Each and every episode will be a celebration of who we are.
“We will keep it simple and lead from a place of intuition because at the end of the day we are all human and somehow related, tiri hama.
“Elaine Welteroth once said, ‘In order to change the stories, you must change the storytellers’. Consequently, when we hear our own stories we feel seen, acknowledged and validated by our own life experiences. Representation matters because imagery has a lasting impression on the way we view ourselves and are seen.
“The media we consume is either helping us or hurting us. We are not flattened characters or monolithic. We are a rich community of diverse multidimensional human beings living in a multicultural world.
“We range from village people to academics, CEOs and more. Everyone deserves to grow up seeing, listening and reading about people who look like them on TV, radio, in magazines and other forms of media.
“I have always said that by aspiring to be greater, in turn one inspires others to want greatness for themselves. It is only when we see ourselves represented that we can start to believe what is possible for us.”
Shedding light on the essence of her podcast show, Shava said historically the voices of women, children, and persons with disability have been overlooked, yet it is through listening to these voices that progress can be made.
A shift to a more equitable society gives room for better decision-making because the laws will be made with the best interests of all women and the disenfranchised in mind.
Shava also pointed out that there is no longer need to solely find encouragement from world-renowned public figures like Beyoncé Knowles-Carter (American singer-songwriter and record producer), Julia Roberts (American actress and producer) and Oprah Winfrey (American talk show host and television producer).
Inspiration can also be derived from internationally acclaimed Zimbabwean women like actress Sibongile Mlambo, political scientist Elizabeth Nyamayaro and novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga.
Shava said to see change on a wide level, there is need to consider how women see and choose to govern themselves in their everyday lives and relationships.
This starts with examining how women treat girls from ages 4 to 12, as these formative years leave a long-lasting impact on self-esteem and self-worth.
“When we [women] allow ourselves to operate from strong positions of self-worth, only then can we demand what we deserve from our leaders and governments,” she said.
“Only then will we see more women educated past the primary level and encouraged to run for positions in government or seek career advancement within workplaces.
“It is a well-known fact that women are the glue keeping society together. The society owes women a debt of gratitude for childbearing and care-taking.
“Women play essential roles in the global food systems and are at the forefront of climate change policy and social justice. By listening to and learning from the often disregarded and misappropriated perspectives of women and the young, the society stands to benefit.”
While half of podcast listeners are women, only around 22% of shows are hosted by women and out of these shows, even fewer are hosted by Africans.
Through the ZimExcellence podcast show, Culturelle Productions sought to bridge the gap by allowing female voices of Zimbabwean origin to drive listeners’ decisions. Listeners can look forward to a weekly dose of inspiration from seasoned Zimbabwean movers, shakers, change-makers and trailblazers who are making an impact globally in their respective professional occupations.
- Follow Grant Moyo on Twitter: @TotemGrant