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Footnotes (Blog) / No Comment / 15/02/2018

Words and photographs by Tendai Cambalame

From somewhere deep in the cold grimy recesses of my being, like a slimy reptilian scaly thing, I felt it slowly uncoil, silently slithering, making its presence felt.

Then the head lifted up, propelled by some deep contagious force, the eyes dark, yet glittery, burning with a sizzling hair-raising malevolence. As if prodded by a hot iron rod, it startled me with its sheer force of willpower.

Even after all these years, I knew that the writer in me was not dead. Not by a long shot. If anything, he had only been hibernating.

For close to a decade I had done very little writing worth anything.  Pondering over that, curiously casting a pale rheumy eye over that rugged mountain leading into my past, it filled me with sorrow and suffocating nameless frustration.

“How could I wallow in such muddy smelly waters for so long?” I thought with utter bafflement.

“Such a promising writer who, at the age of eighteen, came to the stark conclusion that he was a naturally gifted author. Someone who, one blazing day, would spit words on paper which would set the world alight, and instead of being accused of arson he would be revered as a hero.”

These words danced crazily in my mind as I toyed with the idea of a film. I remembered how, close to a decade later, I wrote scores of poetry, scripts and short stories, some of which saw their way into local magazines and radio as well as television stations, bringing sheer joy and inspiration. But after a decade of fervent literary traipsing on the veld of writing, something had withered inside me. The once pulsating and luminescent flame seemed to have lost its appetite to burn.

Of course, this decade was not just filled with apathy. It was also a time of frenetic action, backbreaking hard work, which saw me defying all odds and setting up a giant tourism project, Pasichigare Holiday, Leisure, Outdoor and Education Centre in Domboshava. The inclusion of an “Arts” category in the project meant I was forever reminded that, as a writer, the project gave me an infinitesimal opportunity to meet, jell and cohabitate with artists of notable reputation.

Whilst the author that had feverishly blazed a trail in the last decade seemed to have been checked in his path by an unseen hand, a window of divine opportunity stealthily opened to accommodate the budding writer. Tiriparwendo, an exciting cultural film, came to Pasichigare Mountain Resort.

Not only did I become the series’ art director; my ratings in filmmaking began to soar, and I landed an acting role. Soon afterwards, an epic movie called Destiny was filmed at Pashichigare. A second film, Maroro followed suit, as if answering the call from a nesting bird. Soon it became obvious that the set in Domboshava was a beautiful, natural “Hollywood”, tailor-made for shooting epic films.

In Destiny, I landed a leading role, playing the king. In Maroro I was cast in a less glamorous, but equally good role. How do I explain this? It was obvious that the once dormant artist was rising to the surface.

Around this time, I was inspired to write, produce and possibly direct my first ever motion picture. But it was a bit early; someone with ample technical experience would need to direct the film. Not a bad idea. One cannot grab everything in one fistful. And so one morning, I woke up humming a tune.

Red Tears and Black Agony is an epic film set in early pre-colonial times, when the voices of African Kings were law and challenging them would result in death. I would a play the all-powerful king Dunguza. The producers I worked with in the three previous productions had encouraged my potential as an artist, especially my voice. Not only that, I could write the script and produce the film.

As if that was not enough, I also owned a location which suited the movie, a twenty-seater bus to transport the cast and the crew and was in a position to partly fund the film whilst scavenging around for sponsors. From the onset, I vowed that this was not going to be a zero budget production. Artists and actors deserve something better in this day and age. Film makers should stop being cry-babies: “No money, no money.”  I staunchly believe there is something we can do to help ourselves before the big help arrives.

Red Tears and Black Agony is a title I pulled out of my old dusty archive. It was a title crafted when I was in my teens. I changed the plot of a story I was meant to write but never found the energy and inspiration to complete, replacing it with a new burning storyline.

Muregeyi is a highly gifted artist who effortlessly carves masterpieces out of rock or wood. Young, bold and inspired, he believes there is more to life than just being a talented artist. Tragically, he was born and raised in family under the crippling yoke of slavery. But Muregeyi is determined to win his freedom and that of his family at any cost. King Dunguza is a ruthless, unforgiving man, crushing anyone who strays onto his path. He is convinced all the slaves in his kingdom must never taste freedom.

Denick is a young European hunting for fortune in Africa; any kind of fortune and glory for his distant queen. Cunning and ruthless, he believes nothing should stand in the way of his superior race. Muchadura is a visual artist whose hand effortlessly produces masterpieces, and like Muregeyi he is a slave who can never hope to taste this apple called freedom.

One day, Muregeyi carves a strange but beautiful sculpture from a sacred rock in the forbidden Gasura Mountain, convinced that if he offers it as a gift to King Dunguza he will win freedom for himself and his family. But Denick has another idea for the sculpture. He wants it as a present for his queen so he can become famous back home.

When the idea of the sculpture is put to King Dunguza, he scoffs at the idea of a slave asking for freedom in exchange for the sculpture, although he is drawn forcefully towards the artwork. In a fit of fury, he orders the death of Muregeyi, Muchadura and their entire families. He wants the sculpture confiscated, but fate intervenes. Dernick steals the priceless sculpture before the king can lay his hands on it and runs for his dear life.


This is a story of treachery, conquest and ultimate victory. Currently we are working on the pilot which is shaping up nicely. If it is well received, the film may be developed into a series, as the storyline is rich with many sub plots. Working as a chief scriptwriter at Studio 263 gave me a wealth of experience; previously I co-authored “Up the Hill”, a television sitcom which was originally my idea. I also researched and scripted a drama titled “The Legend”, based on the true life of George Shaya, the iconic football legend.


Tendai Cambalame is a multi-media artist and founder executive director for Pasichigare Holiday, Leisure and Education Center. He has written articles for local radio, television and magazines for over twenty years. He runs motivational and life coaching programs for schools and organizations and mentors young writers and poets. He has worked as a script Writer at Studio 263 and co-authored local television sitcom “Up the Hill”. He is set designer for local cultural drama “Tiriparwendo”, and appears in the series. His poetry has featured in Parade and The Horizon magazines, and some have been broadcast on S FM (formerly Radio One).

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