Song for Zimbabwe | Florence Ayisi

What about Zimbabwean ladies in Wales?

Song for Zimbabwe

Florence Ayisi

Read the filmmaker’s submitted proposal in this PDF file. Follow the further development of the proposal below. Click here for an overview of all proposals.

On hold

It breaks our hearts to let you know that due to unforeseen circumstances imagine art after will be on hold until further notice.

summer break

We will have a summer break until September.

Feel free to update your proposals if you wish. Have a good August!

Developing project ideas – Song for Zimbabwe


Photo by Stella V. Chinamo

Song for Zimbabwe is a documentary film that explores the extraordinary stories of ordinary Zimbabwean women living and working in Newport, Wales. These women belong to the Batanai Bambanani Women’s Network Wales. They also call themselves ‘Queens of Africa in Wales’. According to the Sibonie Gumbo, the founder of the women’s group, the network helps to keep us together, and to provides a platform to showcase our cultural heritage in a foreign land we never dreamed we could be part of.”

 These Zimbabwean women are all working mothers, who are proud to be a permanent fixture of how Wales defines itself today in the global context – an all-embracing Wales for Africa. The city of Newport is going through an extensive process of change and regeneration – the diverse migrant communities in Newport are part of the change as well as Newport’s new identity – multicultural. Batanai Bambanani Women’s Network has a visible presence in Newport, especially through their unique and spectacular performances of gospel music and traditional Zimbabwean song and dance routines – always a delight cherished by audiences.

Their singing and drumming in the heart of Wales is a strong sign that times have changed. The women have reinvented themselves, rebuilt their lives against all odds and faraway from the political reign of terror in Zimbabwe. The audiences in the Welsh Valleys have also been exposed to a taste of Africa. As the women sing and drum, with beaming smiles and the graceful movements of their bodies, one can sense the strong feelings that the women still have for their culture and country. But Newport is their “new home because most of us are not able to go home, and haven’t been home for more than ten years” says Sibone. But the women have not lost all hope to see their homeland again as they sing and dance for a better Zimbabwe.


Photo by Stellah V. Chinamo

 As the women become more popular and confident, they are planning to record their first ever CD album. The CD, says Sibone, “will help us to enhance our personal feelings as Zimbabwean women and makes us proud to display our true Zimbabwean culture and way of life.”  The women are also planning to celebrate Zimbabwe’s Independence Day in “style” – an important goal they have been working towards for a long time.

 Song for Zimbabwe will be a journey through the lives and times of these Zimbabwean proud mothers. In particular, the film will unravel rare insights and a window into the experiences of a small section of African migrant women in Wales.

Brief notes on how I plan to structure the film:

The film’s narrative structure will revolve around two main activities that all the women are involved in – the rehearsals and recording of their first ever CD album, and the celebration of their Independence Day in 2011.

 This narrative framework of the film will be inter-cut with chapters of the women’s personal lives, similar to films like Buena Vista Social Club and Reservoir Dogs. The film will have major and minor characters depending on how involved they are in relation to the preparations of 2 main events and the group’s other activities; the character fragments will provide brief biographical information through interviews and conversations with friends and family – We will get to know about the social context of the women, such as family life, past, character traits, occupation, aspirations and so on.  It is in these contexts that we will address questions and issues such as, why the women came to Wales; how they have integrated in Newport; will also see and hear about how their presence ‘here’ helps to define multi-cultural Wales.

 Throughout the film we will follow individual women outside their involvement with the two (2) events; it is in these sequences and images that we will encounter them in their daily lives. The images of their every-day lives will be juxtaposed with images where they are preparing for the Independence Day celebrations, or rehearsing for the recording of their album. In this way, the women reveal different identities, talents, experiences and emotions in the different contexts.  These will not only show their passion for song and dance as well as making music, but will also give the audience rare insights into the multi-dimensional, dynamic, resilient and complex personalities of these migrant mothers. This contrast will furnish the role and metaphorical significance that gospel music and traditional African music have for these women in this time and place.


Photo by Stellah V. Chinamo

Brief notes on how I intent to approach the film:

 I am attempting to adopt an approach or style that allows the audience to see and hear directly from these women as individuals. Through the use of interviews, the women will have a voice in the film and be able to speak for themselves – telling their personal stories from their own perspectives. In this way, the film will provide another way of seeing and looking at African women – from their own perspective, and within the wider context of agendas and stories that are defined very much by the need for personal expressions.

The film will use a variety of visual styles to portray the women’s lives and activities. We will interweave actuality footage, interviews, with archival material such as photos. For the most part, the film will be mainly actuality driven in a Cinema Verité style in the sequences building up to the Independence Day celebrations, and the recording of their album – we will follow events as they happen in an observational and personal style. These sequences will be intercut with interviews where the women tell their stories of aspirations and so on.

There will be no commentary/voice over; if this were used, it would be to give information, not interpretation.

The film will have alternating moments of fast paced sequences inter-cut with slower sequences, so there is a rhythm to the film. In most cases, the landscape of Newport and the women are to be in close harmony; this will allow the audience to see the women in the context of the landscape and environment of Newport; to achieve this, a wide-angle lens will be used, with very limited or no soft focus backgrounds.

Throughout the film, there will be gospel and traditional music by the women; this will help to punctuate the emotions at key moments.

 The format: HD . The length: 40 minutes

More information later…

Florence Ayisi

bit slow with getting back

it’s stupidly busy at this end – amongst many things, I’m still in the process of completing 5 films for my forthcoming show at Camden Arts Centre which opens on Thur 9 June. be great to see you at the private view!!!


Interesting that you say you would be equally interested in stories from anywhere on the African continent if it reflects your own agenda. I think what I was trying to get at in my question – be it indirect – is exactly that, to see where you fit into this. I can see you are interested in telling stories that go against the mainstream narrative about either Africa or immigrants in Britain, but both are very broad categories that have spurned more than one documentary. What is your specific take on this subject in this proposed film? How does it move beyond similar subject documentaries?

Looking Inward, and also Around


Hi Florence, what is your personal take on this group of Zimbabwean ladies in Wales?

Through this film, I am attempting to make audible and visible the unheard voices, and absent images of a small section of the African community in Britain; and in this process, offer an alternative way that they can be imagined – a perspective that challenges preconceived ideas and attitudes about immigrants.

My personal take/approach: is to find a new way to look at, and also to construct the African Subject in Britain. Even though some of these women came here as political or economic migrants, their presence here, and what they do provide another point of view, and another way of seeing and relating to an immigrant. The cultures they have brought here, and some of the values they uphold can be of use to the host community.

Through this film, I am also attempting to find a way to affirm important aspects of African culture that could be meaningful in someway to others.

Is there a similar community of Cameroonian women?

No, I have not yet come across an all Female cultural group from Cameroon whose activities, dynamism and collective consciousness are similar to that of the Zimbabwean ladies.

If not, would you have liked there to be something like it?

As an African woman in the Diaspora, I am always drawn to seeing the wider context of being African – my position is Pan-African. It’s within the wider context for the need to reconstruct and redefine the images and/or ideas about African people that being a Cameroonian matters to me in this Time and Space. So, tomorrow, I could be interested in what people from Malawi or Togo are doing if it reflects my own agenda, and the stories I would like to tell about Africans.


Song for Cameroon

Hi Florence, what is your personal take on this group of Zimbabwean ladies in Wales? Is there a similar community of Cameroonian women? If not, would you have liked there to be something like it?

Song for Zimbabwe proposal

Brief Outline
Song for Zimbabwe presents the extraordinary story of ordinary Zimbabwean women living Wales. These women, all Mothers, have found freedom and safety far away from the reign of terror of President Mugabe. This film is about the lives and times of a group of African Mothers who use music and dance to express their plight and experiences of cultural alienation. Their songs and dance routines are emotionally charged, inspiring, and sometimes haunting – combining accounts of their tragic loss, nostalgia, and their subsequent renewal. These Mothers have reinvented themselves in a strange land from where they hope for a better Zimbabwe. Are they using music and dance to keep the flame and desire for their homeland alive, to emotionally reconnect, and to maintain stability to their disrupted worlds? Are these Mothers modern African griots, calling for understanding beyond the shadows of a cruel political system that forced them into exile?

Emotion Behind the Project
My personal experiences of leaving my homeland to a different country with unfamiliar culture, climate and environmental circumstances always draw my attention to people from other African countries who are also disconnected from familiar smells, colours, daily textures and rhythms of their homeland. Song for Zimbabwe highlights aspects of Diaspora memory – the nostalgic experiences of separation, longing, cultural heritage and resistance. The film provides rare insights into African women’s experiences and opportunities, highlighting some of the values that we all cherish, no matter where we live – the freedom to have choice.
Song for Zimbabwe explores visions of migration and exile from a woman-centred perspective, showing women renegotiating their identity positions. We will discover what role music plays in intensifying a sense of displacement, but also providing feelings of liberation from fear and insecurity. These women are positively searching for new ways of living. This is a universal human-interest story.

Principal medium: Single screen film for TV/cinema distribution
Location(s) of production: Wales, UK.
Production budget indication: over £10,000