Zim Achievers to celebrate women in media and arts

By Tidi Kwidini

The Zimbabwe Achievers awards will this year give special recognition to women blazing trails in the media and arts industry.

Chipo Chung at a premiere for “A.D. The Bible Continues”; Photo Courtesy of NBC.
Chipo Chung at a premiere for “A.D. The Bible Continues”; Photo Courtesy of NBC.

Running under the theme, Celebrating Women in Media and Arts, the awards ceremony will celebrate five outstanding women who have excelled in the areas that include broadcasting, film and literary arts.

ZAA has announced that Sony’s Head of Publicity, Taponeswa Mavunga, Forbe’s Farai Gundan, The Walking Dead actress Danai Guriria, Author Petina Gappah and former Dr Who star, Chipo Chung will be honoured at the ceremony on the 7th of May at the Royal Garden hotel in London.

“Over the years we have recognised various individuals and a number of institutions, but this year we wanted to show our support for the extraordinary work that women do that aim to uplift the community in various ways,” said ZAA Chairman Conrad Mwanza.

“Many women are still undervalued in a number of industries, including business, and we applaud successful businesswomen like Taponeswa, Farai, Danai, Chipo and Petina who are climbing the ranks in their various industries with their passion and energy,” added Mwanza.

The prestigious awards ceremony, which celebrates its sixth year, will provide a reflective context to examine the achievements of women in the field of media, the arts and emerging technologies.

“Women have always been an integral part of crafting culture, and now, with help from the internet, they’re at the forefront of the current “maker” movement around the world,”

“From television to holding top positions in a tough industry like music which has predominantly been dominated by males, these women have broken barriers and are inspiring the next generation of female Zimbabweans to pursue careers in journalism, literary arts and business,” Mwanza said.

From the suffragettes of the 20th century, the Bra burning campaigners of the 1970s, to the third wave of feminists trying to crack the so-called corporate glass ceiling, women have been fighting for equal rights for centuries.

While there may still be wider issues, women are continuing to break the mould and are emerging as power-houses not only in the corporate world; but in the media industry, as we are now seeing an increase of female directors and producers in the film sector who are influencing major projects and shaping things for the generations of women still to come.

Mwanza said that the ZAA salutes and appreciates the efforts all women of Zimbabwean heritage, especially the journalists, media professionals, writers, actresses and producers who are continuing to make immense contributions to the growth and development of the media and arts world in Africa and abroad.

“Incredible women like the five women being recognised at ZAA this year are all around us, leading, innovating and mentoring the next generation,”

“Every once in a while it is important to shine the spotlight on women and celebrate the inspirational journeys and achievements of some of the brightest talent in the media landscape,” he added.

Now one of the most highly anticipated events in the UK Zimbabwean community the event will take place on 7th May at the Royal Garden hotel in Kensington, London.

Over the years the Zim Achievers has continued to evolve. With the UK awards well established, and with South Africa up and running for the past 3 years, the organisation continues to spread its wings.

With plans for expansion, ZAA will be launching in the United States in the next few weeks and nominations will open shortly after.

Voting for the UK version of this year’s awards has ended and the ZAA’s panel of experts are currently deliberating to emerge with the list of winners for the awards ceremony.

Special Recognition Awards Recipients 

Farai Gundan

Farai is a 2015 Young Global Leader, World Economic Forum and a Dangote Fellow. Farai has been listed as the number one top Forbes writers amongst top 10 writers for Forbes.com.

Farai Gundan
Farai Gundan

She also writes for ESSENCE, a leading US publication that focuses on women of colour. She is the recipient of the 2015 Media Excellence Award by African Women Awards and 2014 Emerging African Leader Award by Temple University.

Ladybrille Magazine named Farai as one of “20 Influential African Women Entrepreneurs in America to watch in 2015”. In 2013, Forbes named Farai as one of its Top 30 Best Entrepreneurs from Africa. Farai runs FaraiMedia, a media consultancy that focuses on Africa. 

Taponeswa Mavunga

Taponeswa Mavunga is the Head of Publicity for Columbia Records, Sony Music Entertainment. She was recruited from Viacom Africa after spending a year as Head of Talent and Music across MTV, MTV Base and the recently launched [in Africa] BET channels.

Taponeswa Mavunga
Taponeswa Mavunga

Prior to this, she was Senior Publicity Manager at Atlantic Records UK where she oversaw numerous campaigns over the years, including JAY Z, Estelle, Ed Sheeran and Rudimental, for which she won a Music Week Award for Best PR Campaign in 2014. 

Petina Gappah

Petina Gappah is a lawyer and writer. She has law degrees from Cambridge University, Graz University in Austria and the University of Zimbabwe. She completed her PhD at the age of 26. She works as Counsel at the ACWL, an international organisation in Geneva that advises more than 70 developing country governments on the laws governing the World Trade Organisation.

Award-winning Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah
Award-winning Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah

In 2014, Petina was nominated by the government of Zimbabwe to be a Member of the Appellate Body, the tribunal that arbitrates word trade disputes. She was only the third African woman to be nominated since 1995, the first being her mentor, Ambassador Amina Mohammed, currently Kenya’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister. Although she was closely beaten to the post by Ambassador Shree Servansing of Mauritius, Petina considers this her most successful professional achievement.

As a writer, Petina uses both English and Shona. Her first book, An Elegy for Easterly, was awarded the Guardian First Book Prize in 2009, an honour she shares with Dambudzo Marechera who received the Guardian Fiction award in 1979. The book was also shortlisted for Zimbabwe’s NAMA Award for Outstanding First Book, Ireland’s Frank O’Connor Prize, the Los Angeles First Book Award and the Orwell Prize.

Her second book, The Book of Memory, was shortlisted for the NAMA Award for Outstanding Fiction, longlisted for the 2015 Financial Times Oppenheimer award and the 2016 Baileys Prize, making her the first Zimbabwean writer in twenty years to be recognised for this honour. Her third book, Rotten Row, will be published in November 2016. One of the stories from that book has been shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Award, the world’s richest award for a single short story.

Danai Gurira

Danai is an actress and playwright. She has started in numerous films and TV shows, including popular series The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead' star Danai Gurira
The Walking Dead’ star Danai Gurira

In 2007 Gurira starred in film The Visitor for which she won Method Fest Independent Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress. She has appeared in films Ghost Town 3 and Restless City. From 2010 to 2011, she appeared in HBO drama series Treme. In 2013, Gurira played a lead role in director Andrew Dsunmu’s independent drama film Mother of George, which appeared at the Sundance Film Festival. She received critical acclaim for her performance as a Nigerian woman struggling to live in the United States.

Gurira has also written and starred in a number of Broadway plays. Her 2009 play, Eclipsed, which starred Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o made it to Broadway from Off-Broadway. The play is set in war torn Liberia and focuses on three women who are living as sex slaves to a rebel commander, and is about how they deal with this difficult situation. The play was inspired by a photograph of female fighters and their tale of survival.

In January 2016, it was announced Gurira had been cast as Tupac Shakur’s mother Afeni Shakur in All Eyez on Me, a biopic about the rap star.

Chipo Chung

Chipo trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and graduated in 2003.  She is known in science fiction circles for her work in Doctor Who where she has appeared in several episodes. Other TV appearances include, The Last Enemy and as a reporter in an episode of Sherlock.

Chipo Chung acting as Mary Magdalene in AD
Chipo Chung acting as Mary Magdalene in AD

In 2011 she had a recurring role as Vivian, an indentured servant at King Uther’s court in the medieval romance drama series Camelot. She appeared in the 2015 British TV series Fortitude as Trish Stoddart. In the same year she won the acclaimed role of Mary Magdalene in the TV series, A.D The Bible Continues. The show was hailed for its international and multi-racial casting and opened to 11 million viewers in April 2015.

Chipo co-founded alongside founder Nick Reading, the charity SAFE- Kenya which develops theatre for social change in Kenya, focusing on HIV education and abolishing clitoridectomy. She currently sits on its Board of Trustees. She works closely with the charity Peace Direct in support of Envision Zimbabwe, a women’s trust that works towards consensus-building and peace in Zimbabwe.