The man who captured Genius’ life
By Leroy Dzenga
He was Zimbabwe’s foremost public hustler, a man of opaque sources of income, but clear spending habits.
Those who knew him vouched for his earnings’ legitimacy, while those who stood at a distance — including the taxman — held their doubts.
A child at heart, Genius Kadungure loved playing. Only that his toy collection ran into millions and his playground was an elite nightclub he owned and loved.
In urban nomenclature, Ginimbi was a Mbinga, a person of comfortable means.
Addicted to the camera, his happiness would be palpable with a lens pointing towards his face, even mobile phone cameras made him happy; this is how he became a meme.
On his Instagram, he had set-up Ginimbi TV, which provided comic relief for internet users, especially during the early Covid-19 lockdown days when he used to host twerking contests once a week.
It was a crazy platform; the only rule was that there were no rules.
Ginimbi so loved the camera that he got a permanent photographer for his nightclub, Dreams.
He wanted to sell the Dreams lifestyle and felt images would be central to his goal.
The man he entrusted with the role, Kirkpatrick Chidamba, was to become the last person to take images of him and fitness bunny, Moana, about two hours before their fatal car crash.
It is a day Chidamba is struggling to take off his mind, those around him are still afraid of bringing up the conversation in his presence.
Unlike others who have tried to tie together events in the club with the fatal events of that Sunday morning, he says the day to him was routine.
The videos and images shocking people on social media were, in his view, are a reflection of one of the most uneventful days at Dreams. The day now holds a different weight to him than it did when he took a picture of Ginimbi at 02:33am on November 8, just a few hours before the fatal car accident. That was the last time G, as he was known in his circles, smiled for the camera.
“My aperture was at F3.5, ISO 400 and my focal length was at 18 millimetres,” recalls Chidamba.
“I used a speed light.”
Those who appreciate photography know that on a 50 millimetre lens in low light, an object captured under those circumstances would appear the sharpest in an image.
On the day, Chidamba decided to take candid pictures of Ginimbi without asking him to pose, as it would have meant disturbing his boss who was having unbridled fun.
“He entered the club just after midnight, but I only got to enter his VIP booth at around 02:30am to take pictures of him,” he said.
“He was in a good mood. Some champagne had just been delivered to the table and he was ensuring everyone’s glass was full. I tried to be candid as I took my shots, but he noticed me and smiled as I took my last one.”
It appears Ginimbi would not go to Dreams only to have fun, partying came as an appendage to him being a present business owner, he loved to know the intricacies of the club.
“He loved the club scene, his club scene,” said Chidamba.
“Sometimes he would come to the club early. At some point being the first to sit in the VIP Booth. He would move around most booths having conversations with his clientèle. He believed in the “fadza mutengi” (customer is king) business philosophy. On occasions he would check the sound quality as well as the lights.
“On standards, he always strived to ensure that the brand remained locally competitive.”
The club was launched as Sankayi, but was renovated and rebranded to Dreams when it started appearing like it was lagging behind competitors like Pablo’s, which drew patrons from the same pool.
“This was a well-travelled guy, he had expectations of how the club should present itself, that he personally micro-managed,” Chidamba said.
Taking images of Ginimbi was to Chidamba too easy, as the late seldom interfered with creative processes.
“He really did not demand a lot,” he said. “He would follow my lead as I directed the shots. He preferred wearing shades in most of his shots. For some reason, he trusted that I would do a good job and a thumbs up at the last flash of the speed light was all the assurance he needed.
“Ginimbi’s love for Rhumba and old school Reggae music was clear from the way he reacted when a DJ played those genres. He was a free spirit, some people would come to the club just to spend time staring at him.”
Did Ginimbi ever get agitated?
Even as he was facing his smuggling charges, he would wear his smile as he walked through the doors at Rotten Row Courts. Those who worked close to him speak of rare, isolated days he lost his cool.
“Ginimbi rarely communicated his displeasure when it came to the photos and it was mostly done through a member of the management,” said Chidamba.
“There is a day though, during a meeting, he asked me if I would go to a club which showed a particular image I had taken. It was a hard pill to swallow.”
Throughout Chidamba’s time shooting at the venue from the first day, he was a witness to what he describes as “acts of immense kindness.”
After quitting his job and deciding to take up photography, Chidamba’s first gig became the biggest career move he would make.
“It was around June 2018, a few days after my birthday,” he said.
“I got a call to go to the club, which was Sankayi then. I met him downstairs and he told me to go upstairs and get equipment, it was Ginimbi’s birthday on this day.
“This marked the beginning of my photographic career.”
Ginimbi gave a novice photographer a chance of a lifetime to gain his skill shooting for one of the biggest entertainment venues in the country. Many would have gone for tried and tested names, but Ginimbi was a man who confronted the usual for a living.
“This man allowed me to grow and experiment with my craft, with his space, time and resources, that’s a lot to give,” said Chidamba.
With loads of footage accumulated through an average of two shoots a week, Chidamba says he is waiting to be guided by Dreams Club on how some of the key content can be properly packaged and distributed.
“Genius’ images are not too many in my archives, but they are some of the most significant photos I have,” he said.
“On some, I could have done better, but I think I caught him in some of his happiest moments.
“I will be working in consultation with the club, but I am hoping to frame a few of his pictures for future exhibitions. It would be nice to showcase the images I took of the man who led me down the path of my current passion.”
On the fateful day on Sunday, Chidamba left the club at the same time as Ginimbi, just before 5am, as they gave each other a promise they would meet on the day in the evening.
“I left the club around same time as he did,” he said.
“Everything was normal, I expected to see him at Madd Sundays, a reggae session we always held on Sundays.
“I had plans to sleep through the day, but as I tried to nurture my doses, the terrible phone call came through.”
Even up to now, the Ginimbi story is a tale he is approaching with caution.
Chidamba regrets chasing the perfect shot at the expense of conversations with one of the most novel names to ever emerge in Zimbabwe’s social spaces.
“Maybe I should have talked to him more, got to understand him better,” Chidamba mused.
At least Ginimbi smiled through his final day and Chidamba has images to prove that.
Chidamba was a man who followed G with one eye and it made his most powerful body of work, the most painful. The Herald