By Bruce Ndlovu
It was the briefest of cameos. During a ceremony that ran for almost two and a half hours, one would not expect a single minute to matter that much.
But on Saturday 27 March, a minute seemed like an eternity as, for the first time in almost two decades, Zimbabweans set their sights on Lovemore Majaivana.
After loud clamours for his return, after songs had been sung in his honour, after some had perhaps contemplated visits to mediums to petition the spirits to compel Majaivana to return for one last dance, he had finally returned.
Sure, it was for only one minute, 60 precious seconds divided between an acceptance speech and a rendition of Siyayiwela.
But for that brief moment Majee was back. It did not matter that it was not the comeback concert at Barbourfields Stadium that his fans still dream of. Indeed, perhaps it speaks volumes of the regard with which he is held that the little crumb of attention that he tossed towards fans became the main highlights of a sparkling ceremony that was filled with many bright moments.
In the end however, those that have chased Majaivana down over the years were left wondering how it had been done. From promoters, to radio presenters and journalists, everyone has a Majaivana story. Majee has become the Holy Grail, the invisible man who is as elusive today as he was when he left the borders of Zimbabwe.
So, how did the organisers of the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) pull off such a coup?
“We thought that we would invite him to accept the award and he would decline,” said Rodney Ruwende, the communication and marketing manager at the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ).
“That was always one of our greater fears. But in the end, it turned out that our fears were unfounded. It did not really take him a long time to accept because the process started around January or February and it was not before we were in contact with him,” he said.
For NACZ director Nicholas Moyo, the dream of putting Majaivana back in touch with his fans started six years on the British Isles, where another Majee non-appearance was the highlight of an otherwise vibrant evening.
“My first personal encounter with Majaivana was back in 2015 when we were both given awards by a group of British based Zimbabwean artistes. The awards were for honouring those that have had an impact on the arts in Zimbabwe.
Somehow, I don’t know how, I found myself on the list of artistes that were to be honoured on that day.
“I think the platform was called the Mporiro Festival, and it was something that had been organised by Zimbabwean artistes based that side. It was in Kent and I remember we were set to accept our awards from the Mayor. While I went to accept my award, Lovemore had sent his apologies and someone had come to accept his award on his behalf,” said Moyo.
That Majaivana absence, which was only the latest in a long line of snubs, convinced Moyo that he needed to bring back Majaivana in some capacity. As fans poured their hearts out on the importance of Majaivana and his music on their lives, it triggered in Moyo a desire to see him acknowledge his followers.
“On that day, the actions and words of people there as they spoke about what Lovemore meant to them really struck me deeply. The things said about him were quite moving and it was on that day that myself and a few others said that we would try to get Lovemore to come back to the people. We said kabuye ekhaya umuntu lo,” he said.
When the process to select the 40 legends that would be honoured at this year’s ceremony began, Majaivana’s name would not be missing.
“When the sector started submitting for this year’s edition of the awards, we had 245 entries and his name was among one of those. We whittled down that list to 99 and he was still on it. When the jurors sat down and adjudicated and came up with the final list, his name was still amongst those regarded as undisputed legends on the Zimbabwean arts scene,” he said.
Surprisingly, despite repeated attempts to lure him back home, Moyo said Majaivana had been shocked at his consideration for the honour.
“Honestly, he sounded like he never expected the honour. He was shocked when I got in touch and told him what Nama wanted to do. He thought his achievements were long forgotten to the Zimbabwean public. He thought he was nothing more than a distant memory. I am very glad that I fished him out. It makes me feel good as well that I can send him a message and he will reply. That line of communication is very important to me,” he said.
The process to actually get him to appear on the show, had gone smoothly, despite initial fears that he would turn them down.
“In the end, it did not really take that long for me to get in touch with him. It was all matter of knowing who to contact and knowing his roots. I called one person and then the another and very soon I was having a conversation with the man himself. It was the same with Mapfumo (Thomas).
I did not get him through his manager or anything of that sort. I just made a few calls and the next thing you know he had sent his video and was calling to ask if it had come out right. Perhaps as someone who is in the industry it is easier to have that kind of reach and this time it really worked in our favour,” he said.
Two decades after he left Zimbabwe, Majaivana still captures the imagination of his countrymen like it did all those years back when his dancing shoes first caught their attention. His songs are still a staple and given the strength of that brief rendition of Siyayiwela, his vocal cords can still carry a note. Yet, a full return does not yet seem on the cards.
“Look I think Majaivana is a nice guy. After his retirement, it is clear that he is a man who also loves his privacy and people should always grant him that. People retire for all sorts of reasons. Some retire due to the fact that their industry retires them, they have reached the age in their field when one is supposed to call it quits. For Majaivana things were different.
“This was someone who decided to hang up his boots when he was still in his prime. He decided that he could no longer guarantee the financial security of his family at the time and so it was time to move. When a person makes a decision like that, it is always a very personal decision and everyone, whether they be fans or critics, should respect it. Despite all of that, he is someone who has always wanted to be appreciated by his own community,” said Moyo.
Full list of the Nama Legends @40 award winners
Aaron Chiundura Moyo, Adam Madebe, Albert Nyathi, Alick Macheso, Barbara Makhalisa-Nkala, Barnabas Chadamoyo, Ben Mahaka, Bothwell Nyamhondera, Chirikure Chirikure, Cont Mhlanga, Daves Guzha, Dominic Benhura, Ellen Mlangeni, Felix Moyo, Fradreck Mujuru, Helen Leiros, Irene Chigamba, Jasen Mphepo, Jesesi Mungoshi, Joe Njagu, Joyce Jenje-Makwenda, Lovemore Majaivana Tshuma, Matesu Dube, Musaemura Zimunya, Nakai Matema, Nicholas Zakaria, Nkululeko Innocent Dube, Pathisa Nyathi, Paul Chidyausiku, Rashid Jogee, Shimmer Chinodya, Stella Chiweshe, Stephen Chigorimbo, Susan Chenjerai, Susan Haines, Sylvester Mubayi, Tapfuma Gutsa, Thomas Mapfumo, Tsitsi Dangarembga, Zexie Manatsa. The Sunday News