Being a young filmmaker in Africa is both frightening and exciting. Frightening because it feels like such a large sphere and it is such a scary thing to do, especially as a woman. Exciting because it means there are so many stories to tell.”
Tapiwa Gambura ’18 is an award-winning filmmaker from Zimbabwe. Her first three documentaries received recognition at the Jozi Film Festival, Zimbabwe National Arts Merits Awards, and Girls Impact the World Film Festival Awards in Florida. Through the accessible medium of film, Tapiwa tells the stories of diverse women from the continent in order to shift the narrative of what it means to be an African woman. Tapiwa will be heading to Barnard College to continue her studies in September 2020.
Tapiwa Gambura grew up in a suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe called Glen View alongside her four siblings. While her father is in Property Development and her mother is a Social Worker, Tapiwa’s parents created an intentional space for literature and art in their home. From art classes to writing and directing her own plays, she was always encouraged to embrace her creative side. However, it was not until Tapiwa was assigned a film project at ALA that she found a platform for her voice and started viewing her passion for the creative arts as a viable, impactful career.
Creative Arts at ALA
ALA played a pivotal role in Tapiwa’s journey as an award-winning filmmaker and passionate feminist activist. Surrounded by strong female leaders, including her older sister Tanatsei Gambura ‘17, she was able to explore and understand her identity as an African woman and discover how to ‘speak truth to power’ by actively challenging and changing oppressive systems. ALA’s recognition of the Creative Arts as part of the academic curriculum enabled Tapiwa to view this subject in an enlightened, academic way. This legitimized her desire to be an artist and fused her passions for activism, literature, and the creative arts. Although she was exposed to numerous different forms of art in her childhood, Tapiwa had never held a camera before she got to ALA. ALA provided her with technical guidance and enabled her to find her artistic voice.
Film Awards and Recognition
To date, Tapiwa has made three short films titled Bvudzi: A Hair Affair; Not Your Bride: A Woman’s Constitution; and Redefining the Road – all highlighting the strength and self-agency African women possess.
Bvudzi: A Hair Affair explores the politics of hair and femininity through the lens of a young woman recollecting her experiences with her hair. It was awarded first prize in the beauty and hair category at the Girls Impact the World Film Festival Awards in Florida.
Not Your Bride: A Woman’s Constitution details the journey of self-empowerment as a woman challenges the legal age of marriage in the Zimbabwe Constitutional Court and came second in the main category at the same awards ceremony.
This story follows Ruvimbo Topodzi’s journey to self-empowerment as she learnt to find her voice against her father, her abusive first husband and eventually the Zimbabwean Constitution. Ruvimbo refused to be another statistic for the cases of Child Marriages in Zimbabwe, and although she was married at 15, she eventually took a stand at the age of 16 to leave her marriage and challenge the legal age of consent in Zimbabwe from 16 to 18. Now, Ruvimbo alongside her second husband is the founder of the Topodzi Foundation Trust that aims to educate child brides, as well as provide them and young women with means of economic independence so that they can fend for themselves amidst the patriarchal society.
Redefining the Road tells the moving story of a woman who works as a bus conductor in Zimbabwe, Tapiwa’s home country. Redefining the Road has won two awards to date: The Real Stories by Real People Award at the Jozi Film Festival in South Africa, and the Zimbabwe National Arts Merits Awards as the Outstanding Short Film 2019. Receiving such recognition for her first three films has reinforced Tapiwas’s belief in her talent as an artist and the value of her storytelling in enabling positive change on the continent and beyond.
Impact through Film
Tapiwa sees great value in storytelling through her films to challenge the way people view and interact with the African continent. She believes the impact of her work is twofold and interlinked: both political and personal. Tapiwa seeks to depict strong and prominent African characters such that young African women might recognize themselves on screen. Film is particularly powerful, as literacy is not required – which can support the development of self-agency and self-confidence for young generations of Africans. Furthermore, Tapiwa believes that her portrayal of strong female characters can positively shift the stereotypical narrative of African women. It is her view that enabling individuals to understand and see how they are implicit and complicit in creating and upholding oppressive systems is key to evolving societal norms. On a global and political scale, Tapiwa seeks to redefine the misperceptions of African women through film.
Vision for the Future
Tapiwa is entering the next phase of her academic career at the prestigious Barnard College, the sister institution of Columbia University in New York City. She intends to double major in the creative arts and comparative literature. After seven years of education outside of her home country of Zimbabwe, Tapiwa wants to synthesize her learnings and return home with the ultimate goal of starting her own all female production company in order to create opportunities for young women in the creative arts sector on the continent. She believes that her talent, entrepreneurial spirit and passion for activism will guide her future film projects ensuring global change starting at the grassroots level in Zimbabwe. Her long-term vision is to shift the way in which African women will share stories and inherently change the global narrative around African women on the continent.