Playwright and cultural icon Stephen “Uncle Steve” Chifunyise (70) died a happy man, a family spokesperson has said.
Chifunyise, who also wrote on arts and cultural issues around the SADC region for The Southern Times, succumbed to cancer in Vainona, Harare, on Monday night.
He is survived by three children — Chipo, Martha and David.
Family spokesman Dennis Chifunyise described the playwright’s death as a great loss since he was a father figure.
“The nation has lost a giant in the arts sector,” he said.
“He was a father figure to everyone. It is a sad story. Last Saturday we were seated with him talking in a jovial mood. It appeared as if he knew that he was dying after he reminded us to always stay happy.
“He said he was happy with how his life has been. He died surrounded by his family members and we thought it was the normal routine of intravenous therapy until he told us that he was tired of all this.
“He has achieved things he wished for. Not many people knew that Uncle Steve was a pillar of strength for the whole family.
“He paid school fees for all of us and to the extent of paying for other children he was not related to.”
Dennis said the veteran artiste was not a material person, but loved to share and help others.
“He loved his children and the art. He was willing to share and use his resources for the betterment of it,” he said.
Mourners were gathered in Vainona, Harare, with burial arrangements yet to be announced as the family was waiting for his daughter Chipo, who is based in the United States of America.
National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) director Nicholas Moyo, who has been known to Chifunyise since 1982, hoped that people drew lessons from the late cultural icon.
“My first encounter with Uncle Steve was in 1982 during a dance and music exhibition. I could see the passion and determination he had on issues to do with art,” he said.
Moyo described Chifunyise as an arts administrator par excellence, endowed with unparalleled skills, vision and utmost creative ingenuity.
“One of his sterling accomplishments was the establishment of Chipawo (Children’s Performing Arts Workshop), in the 1980s to identify and nurture young talent in the arts industry together with Robert McLaren.
“Indeed, as Zimbabweans, particularly practitioners in the creative and cultural industries we have lost a legend, father figure, coach and mentor, who was an exceptional arts and culture policy expert, whose knack of understanding UNESCO Conventions, culture and heritage frameworks and policies was unmatched,” he said.
Theatre guru, Daves Guzha, said Chifunyise showed them the power and need for racial harmony in Zimbabwe, while Chipawo manager Chipo Basopo said their organisation will never be the same without Uncle Steve
Chifunyise attended university in Zambia and the United States where he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Theatre Arts.
Under his wise guidance, Mbende-Jerusarema Dance was proclaimed an intangible cultural heritage for humanity by UNESCO.
In April 2004, he was appointed to the board of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe and served for three years.
The National Arts Council of Zimbabwe bestowed him with an Arts Service Award at its NAMA in 2016.
He developed several plays that he took on international tours. - The Herald.