Tatenda Naomi Matsvai works across theatre, poetry, writing, and more to facilitate communal dialogue between audience and performer
is Tatenda Naomi Matsvai?
Tatenda: “I am a multimedia performance maker, poet, writer, mover, and lover of dialogue, born in Zimbabwe, raised in South East London. My work explores African Oral tradition and Ritual through multiple mediums (body/sound/poetry/projection) to create engaging performances that facilitate communal dialogue between audience and performer.
I work with memory, time space, and myth to create work that challenges colonial hierarchies. I use afrofuturism, retrofuturism, and afrocentric time consciousness to mess with linearity, allowing me to collapse my desired future into my work or explore things I have feared in the past or fear for the future here and now. I love sensorial work that can transport you somewhere past the performance space, so utilize my senses when making.”
did Tatenda first get into theatre?
Tatenda: “It all started when I came to the UK in both primary school and secondary school I always felt really strange, out of place alien, larger than life, and very out of touch with reality. I loved stories and when I watched TV, watched movies, and read books I felt right in these fictional worlds and narratives – I felt free like I had the space to be. So I started writing at about 8, and also had a passion for the screen (I really wanted to be on Disney channel, what 2000 pre-teen didn’t).
As I imagined worlds and characters I began to kind of live my work as I wrote it. I could redefine and reimagine who I was, where I lived, through my characters – it was freeing. But I found it hard to finish things, still something I struggle with now, so when drama club came about in secondary school it was the perfect mix of characters, the ability to explore other worlds/lives and spaces and also live in imagined scenarios, even if it was just for an hour and a half on a Wednesday. We did a version of the wiz in secondary where I got to play Dorothy and I fell in love with the stage, I guess that was my in to Theatre.”
“I wanted to do that, make people feel, transport them into how I saw the world while making words dance.”
did Tatenda first get into poetry?
Tatenda: “With poetry, again I guess it was school. I loved music and rhythm and in year 9 we started looking at poetry in english literature and Shakespeare I was like holy shit this is rap, Shakespeare had bars, I loved analysing how people constructed worlds using different meters, rhyming schemes, in order to communicate just how they felt, it was art with words, and so I started writing poems, I was already writing short fiction and fanfiction but now I got to play with rhymes and that was fun. I started watching button poetry and old def jam and listening to merseyside poets and beat gen poets (recommended by my ace history teacher) and it mushed up my want to find my own voice through poetry.
I thought that it was so powerful how people could stand up and say how they felt without it being some speech or essay, without fear that someone was going to say well that's invalid, that's not real, that's not true, it was this dance with words that made you feel gutteraly. I wanted to do that, make people feel, transport them into how I saw the world while making words dance. I also found it really hard to express exactly how I felt to people and even to myself so poetry became a way I could make sense of my life in my own words.
My history teacher told me that “poems don’t belong in your head like what use are they to anyone there?” and after that chat I submitted a poem to the Roundhouse Poetry slam at 16 in 2014 and I’m still at it. I am so thankful poetry found me.”
is Tatenda’s favourite poem that she’s written?
Tatenda: “It's always changing but right now it’s one I wrote about my nephew Tyler, I love that kid and it's a poem that just makes me think of that love and his potential and that makes me feel joyful, especially right now, that poem has been a source of light in an otherwise turbulent time for us all.”
“I also found it really hard to express exactly how I felt to people and even to myself so poetry became a way I could make sense of my life in my own words.”
can I find more from Tatenda?
Follow her over on Instagram to get inspired by her creative work.