What is expressed in everyday artforms?
Facilitated by Alex Gwaze (Curator)
Radio and television generally don’t mix. One is visual and the other relies on sound. However, both need sound. It is important to remember that television is an audio – visual artform after all. Nonetheless, radio and TV are both public mediums that we engage with everyday. Their everyday quality is probably why we take them for granted and relegate them to background noise. Yet the voices and faces of radio and TV personalities are familiar to most of us. Plus we talk about what we have seen on TV or heard on the radio regularly. But we don’t really focus on what these mediums are trying to express. This is why I contacted two recognizable women on radio and TV to try and find out what these artforms are really saying.
First I got a hold of Samantha Chitapi. Samantha, or Tariro Samantha Chitapi as she is sometimes know as – is an actress and a one time co-producer / production manager of Zimbabwe’s longest running soapie “Viva Wenera”. She has an honours degree in Film and Theatre Arts from Midlands State University and she has appeared in a couple of music videos. She is known for playing ‘Donna’ in “Viva Wenera” and ‘Thandie’ in “Thandie’s Diary”. In addition, she was also a talent manager at “Talent of Steel”.
On the other hand, I got in touch with radio presenter and event host Ashleigh Kashiki. Ashleigh is radio presenter at “ZiFm’s” sister station – “Midlands 98.4 Fm”. She studied Electronic Communications Engineering at Bulawayo Polytechnic and began her career at “After 5 radio”, an international online radio station. However, she also conducts interviews for “Mahogany TV” on social media. Furthermore, she is one of the most recognized event hosts in Gweru. Throughout her career she has shared the stage with the likes of Nutty O, Takura, Anita Jaxson, Holy Ten, Kikky Badass and Legion to name a few.
Samantha and Ashleigh had never met before but in their conversation they talked about self – discovery, sex scenes, attention, the radio and sensitivity.
SAMANTHA: Lately I’ve been on a sort of journey of self discovery. Looking for new opportunities.
ASHLEIGH: I’m big on self discovery and awareness. You can only give the best of yourself when you’re in a good place and I commend you for making that decision. It’s never an easy thing to do. So kudos to you girl!
SAMANTHA: Thank you. I see you are so busy working hard in different spaces. You are amazing! I’m jealous (laughs). Let’s work together.
ASHLEIGH: Girl, I was thinking the same about you! You know how these things are, we have do the work in Zim! I’d absolutely love to work with you though. We can definitely discuss more details. I’m sure we can always work something out. You are amazing. You were on TV everyday. I’m jealous (laughs). What’s acting been like for you?
SAMANTHA: It’s been a roller coaster (laughs). Being on a soapie you are seen almost everyday. And you have to work really hard so your performance doesn’t get stale. But bottom line is I enjoyed being on TV. Under different circumstances I would consider going back. But for me right now happiness is a priority. So I’m allowing myself the opportunity to grow and think.
ASHLEIGH: You giving up on TV?
SAMANTHA: Ahh, hell no! (laughs) I’m just looking for other projects to work on that compliment me. I’m trying a new direction and new approach to life. How’s radio? What’s presenting been like for you?
ASHLEIGH: I love it! And one day I hope to be on TV as well. It does have its trials and tribulations. Also being a woman in a male dominated field comes with its challenges but the hard work is all worth it in the end. Especially if it’s towards something you love.
SAMANTHA: I love being creative but I like to think of myself as reserved but also sociable. I’m not so outgoing but love being around creatives. Anything that challenges me I’m ready to take on. However, the arts challenge me to be more out there sometimes. Especially because the vision for most projects is so masculine.
ASHLEIGH: I feel you. We work in male spaces and you can feel their eyes all over you and other women. When any woman walks into a room, especially if she attractive and then oh no! No attention is paid on what she has to say or what she is doing there. Whereas if a man walked into a room respect is almost immediately given.
SAMANTHA: It’s all about the male gaze.
ASHLEIGH: Males are visual beings, women not so much. I think it’s mainly a male thing to stare at things. Not to say women don’t enjoy them too. Maybe just not as much. Quick peeks.
SAMANTHA: (laughs) Yes it’s a struggle to be taken seriously. That’s why sometimes I prefer to be behind the scenes – producing or managing. Feels like I can maintain some kind of control of what’s happening around me behind the scenes than in front of the camera.
ASHLEIGH: I feel women almost always have to try twice as hard to get recognized or gain some attention in the creative Arts. Some men take advantage of this pressure to succeed and push women into situations that leave them feeling empty and used.
SAMANTHA: I love working with people who help boost my confidence. Being around real creatives makes you more alive and proud. Proud of the work you are doing and stories you are telling. But I’ve realised that it also exposes your limitations.
SAMANTHA: Yes! There are something I wouldn’t do for attention or money.
ASHLEIGH: Such as?
SAMANTHA: Sex scenes. No sex scenes, no kissing (laughs). I don’t even like wearing skimpy outfits. I won’t do anything that I feel would divert from my personality in a way that I’m not comfortable with. I have my limits. So no bum shorts or bum shots (laughs).
ASHLEIGH: (laughs) I totally understand you. I’ve gotten offers to do stuff like that and I just can’t do it. Funny thing is women also pressure other women into doing such stuff. For example, I remember this one time a lady reached out to me said – “there’s an artist who wants to take pictures of ladies for women’s day or breast cancer awareness or something. I’ll be naked but I would have body paint on”. I respectfully declined. Why do we always have to be naked or half-naked to be seen or heard. It’s frustrating.
SAMANTHA: Shame. Is that why you prefer to be on radio? How does it work though. I mean like making your listeners relate to a certain emotion without seeing you or your facial expression. And that whole talking to yourself alone in the booth thing (laughs). That must be hard.
ASHLEIGH: That’s a good question. Words! I’ve always been an expressive creative person. It’s like when something happens and you’re dying to share that experience with your friend, so you call them and tell them everything. The talking to yourself part does take skill and a lot imagination to master. But I love anything with sound, especially on radio. I enjoy making people see with their ears.
SAMANTHA: I love that picture you just painted in my mind’s eye.
ASHLEIGH: Thank you. Have ever thought of being on radio?
SAMANTHA: Me on radio! I don’t think I would manage radio. I’m a lazy speaker (laughs). However, before I got into theatre and film I was in the Percussion Band. Since then I became more in touch with that arty side of myself. I guess we have that in common. Our love for sounds. Your turn. Have you ever thought of being in front of the camera?
ASHLEIGH: Yes, I have been in front of the camera and I’ve loved it all the times. But never as an actress. Always as presenter or hosting events.
SAMANTHA: So your job means you always have to go out. That must be fun.
ASHLEIGH: It is fun. Well, depending on who the organizers are and who you’re working with. Sometimes it can be a lot, sometimes you just want to go home. Funny story – At Voltz Jt and Takura concert I had my watch on, and I did close to 40000 steps on that stage. It was a good work out (laughs). So I can afford to cheat on my workout routine during the week if I’ve got an event or events coming up. You know walking is good for the heart and stuff. You should try it.
SAMANTHA: Well I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try. Because I do think about it at times. Expanding my visibility in new ways.
ASHLEIGH: Girl if you can envision it you can definitely do it! I say go for it. When I go for something it’s because I want to do it. It’s not about other people or fame or attention. Those things come with the territory. We are in an industry where what you look like also counts and women happen to be more appealing to look at than men. And we pull in more attention.
SAMANTHA: Well I guess it only takes courage to get up on stage at the end of the day. But if I’m being honest I need to take a break from ‘attention’. We are living in an attention economy. It’s all about getting attention and not substance. Especially on social media.
ASHLEIGH: True, there are people who get into the industry for attention and fame. But that’s not you or me. Go for your dreams while you can, life isn’t guaranteed. So why not.
SAMANTHA: I would love too in the near future. Because for me I feel I perform better in front of an audience. I enjoy exploring different roles. You would think this is easier to do in a soapie where you have to do different things everyday – but it isn’t. There is a mechanical nature to TV work sometimes. I feel women are moved more by sentimental and affectionate scenes to explore different sides of their personality. But there is a rigidness to how men see women’s characteristics in film. Don’t know if I’m making sense (laughs).
ASHLEIGH: I can totally relate. Women are more emotional and sentimental. That’s why for me being on radio allows me to use my own sources of how I feel about myself as a woman. It’s conversational in that sense. Don’t know if I’m making sense too (laughs). Guess what I trying to say is that I am always grateful radio gave me a chance to discover what my passion truly is – instead of, you know (laughs).
SAMANTHA: Same here! Without film I feel there are parts of me that otherwise would have been left unexplored. Even things I would have never attempted if I had a regular job. So we should be thankful for what we have right?
ASHLEIGH: Thankful and hungry for more opportunities. We must always strive for more.
SAMANTHA: Yes. It should be better. Thank you so much for this conversation. I am grateful for the guidance and your kind words.
ASHLEIGH: No thank you. I really enjoyed hearing how you feel. Lets talk again soon about that work.
SAMANTHA: Yes, lets!