We at Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center continue to mourn the passing of the great mbira player Sekuru Cosmas Magaya, our long-time teacher and friend, who died on July 10, 2020, after contracting COVID-19. An international Zoom memorial was held on October 10. Many family members, including his grand children, close friends, hosts, and mbira students spoke and played the mbira in his honor. For those unable to attend, we have made available a link to the recorded memorial. We hope you’ll be inspired to remember Sekuru Magaya’s legacy and to uphold his way of teaching, learning and living.
Dear students, parents, ensemble members, staff, and community members,
It is with disappointment that I’m announcing the closure of Kutsinhira’s onsite programming as of September 28. No classes or ensemble gatherings may take place indoors or outdoors at the center until further notice.
With a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Lane County, local conditions don’t meet Kutsinhira’s criteria for remaining open. Therefore, the board voted yesterday, at a regularly scheduled board meeting, to close onsite programming.
Even though we hope this closure is temporary, the decision was still an emotional one. Being able to safely gather and make music with others has been a salve for many of us these last two months. However, the board remains committed to following thoughtful standards, guided by scientific principles, research, and best practices, both to ensure Kutsinhira is doing its part for the public health of our community and to ensure our members feel comfortable gathering when we are open.
Kutsinhira adopted a set of criteria in June to guide decisions such as these. You can review these criteria, with explanations and references in this PDF. We have been monitoring these criteria daily and will continue to do so.
Going forward, Kutsinhira’s status (open or closed) will be posted in a banner at the top of our website at kutsinhira.org. In addition, teachers, staff, and ensemble contacts will be notified on a weekly basis about whether the center will be open to in-person programming the following week. The determination of whether to reopen or remain closed will be automatic, based on whether our criteria are met at a weekly checkpoint.
We will also continue looking at options for indoor teaching at the Village School this fall, as well as remote teaching methods to replace outdoor instruction. We’ll share more information after we’ve explored those options further.
As I said back in March, at the onset of the pandemic, the music will go on and we will play together again. We must first wade through these tides together. Lane County’s COVID-19 alert level is currently High, so they’re recommending we all “take measures to limit most contact and modify everyday activities to reduce personal exposure.” Please take care of yourselves and stay well!
We, the board and staff of Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center, want to clearly and publicly express our support for the Black Lives Matter movement. We hope you will stand with us in solidarity as partners in this fight for racial justice.
Throughout the history of the United States, Black people have been subjected to systems of brutality and oppression. Each of us — but particularly those of us who have the privilege that comes with white skin — must act to end these injustices. We call for accountability in law enforcement and an end to the systemic persecution of Black people, in our local community and beyond.
Kutsinhira’s mission depends fundamentally on strong, healthy relationships with Black Zimbabweans who generously share their music and culture with us. We strive to honor those relationships, and vow to continue reflecting deeply on the significance of that cross-cultural exchange and on our responsibilities as a predominantly white organization in the United States.
Whether we are conscious of racism in ourselves or not, we must recognize that it exists throughout our society — in Oregon, in Eugene, and within Kutsinhira. We must ask ourselves, as an organization and as individuals, how we may unintentionally uphold systems of oppression against Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). We must root out any biases that undermine our efforts to create an inclusive community among students, teachers, performers, audience members, friends, family, and the broader community.
Toward that end, we pledge to become more deeply informed about racial and cultural issues. Kutsinhira’s board and staff will determine ways to facilitate frank explorations of topics such as the colonial history of Zimbabwe, current economic disparities between our Black teachers and our membership, oppression in both Zimbabwe and the U.S., cultural appropriation, and racial and cultural diversity within Kutsinhira.
Though we recognize the challenge of dismantling systems built on oppression, we are heartened by the heightened possibility for transformative change in this moment. We hope you will join us in being part of that change by engaging in conversation and learning.
Kutsinhira board of directors:
Nancy Novitski, President
Dennis Urso, Treasurer
Marilyn Mangus, Secretary
Marilyn Kolodziejczyk, Zimbabwe Liaison
Gary Spalter, Executive Director and Teacher
Sue Dickman, Education Director
Karen Howe, Facilities Manager
Maggie Donahue, Founder and Teacher
Ratie Dangarembwa Morgan, Teacher
Caleb Donahue, Teacher
Wanda Walker, Teacher
We at Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center deeply mourn the great mbira player Sekuru Cosmas Magaya, our long-time teacher and friend, who died on July 10, 2020, after contracting COVID-19. To honor his accomplishments and devotion as an educator, musician, friend, village head and family head, Kutsinhira has established a memorial fund in his name, the Cosmas Magaya Memorial Fund. This fund will provide support to teachers, musicians and their families, like Sekuru Magaya’s family, that have been so deeply affected by the ravages of the pandemic. To further honor his accomplishments and impact in his rural home area of Mhondoro, funds will also support the Cosmas Magaya Cultural Arts and Education Center created by Humwe, a 501c3 non-profit co-founded by Sekuru Magaya.
To contribute to the fund, please click the Donate button at the top of this page and select the Cosmas Magaya Memorial Fund in the description field. You can also send a check to: Kutsinhira Cultural Arts Center, P.O. Box 50823, Eugene, OR 97405.
The Magaya Memorial Fund offers Sekuru Magaya’s many students and friends a way to participate in an important Zimbabwean funeral tradition. Mourners typically offer donations at Zimbabwean funerals, and a list of these donors is read aloud as part of the burial service. This tradition serves a practical role in covering funeral expenses. More importantly, it allows bereaved family members to see that an extended community is mourning alongside them.
All who knew Cosmas will remember his wonderful ability and open-hearted willingness to bridge Zimbabwean and other cultures, as well as his powerful mbira playing and patient, thorough teaching. This remarkable man touched thousands in a very positive way. We have been privileged to know him.
As our lives change so radically, my mind often turns to our friends in Zimbabwe. How are they faring through this pandemic? Like most of the rest of the world, they are under a lockdown which at times is strictly enforced with an authoritarian hand. This significantly effects their ability to earn money, to obtain food and to grow their own food. I’d like to share the following firsthand accounts. Be sure to read a somber and honest on the ground report from Nhimbe’s Jaiaen Beck. If you’d like to help out, funds can be donated to Kutsinhira where we will disburse funds asap to our teachers and friends as well as to organizations operating in Zimbabwe like Nhimbe, Tariro, Ngwana, Humwe, and Vaima, so that they can help their constituents. For more:
Kutsinhira will remain closed through June 12 as per state guidelines, restrictions and statutes. As restrictions are let up we will assess the appropriateness of opening the center again. As of now, no use will be permitted. Let’s hope for a summer full of marimba classes and performances. We will update you too in the future about the planned visits by our guest artists Musekiwa Chingodza, Cosmas Magaya and others who had planned to come through this year. Zimbabwe is currently under a strict 21-day lock down. This greatly hinders Zimbabweans ability to support themselves financially and even more so effect their ability to feed themselves and their families. Food deprivation is an imminent problem if things get worse. We will keep you all informed as things evolve here and in Zimbabwe.
We hope you are all holding up and staying healthy. Be sure to take time for your mental heatlh; breath, relax and stay connected.
Students, families and friends –
I hope this finds everyone safe and healthy. Kutsinhira remains closed as we and the entire world await to see how this pandemic plays out. To the point: we will generally follow the 4J School System’s lead and of course any statewide orders as to when we might reopen. As of today, 4J schools remain closed until April 28 and so will Kutsinhira. Additionally this year’s Zimfest, the annual Zimbabwean Music Festival, has been cancelled. With these interruptions to our usual educational fare and entertainment, we at Kutsinhira are talking about ways we might be able to offer instruction during the late spring and summer seasons. As options become available, we will share them with you. I know we all hope for a quick resolution to the virus’ disruptions and so we busy ourselves until then with other things. Here are some distractions and learning options I can offer now.
I took this picture a couple of years ago during my travels in the American Southwest. It’s a place of amazing beauty that I’ve enjoyed visiting, Bryce National Park in southern Utah. I wanted to share something that brings good memories to me but also might bring you a moment of calm, a moment of break from today’s crises. Another way I’ve taken a break lately is to pick up the mbira, brushing off old parts and relearning forgotten ones. Perhaps you’ve had a sparkle of interest in the mbira and now find yourself with some time to explore the instrument. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or to our Education Director Sue Dickman at email@example.com if you’d like more information about renting an mbira and about resources for virtual learning. A great brand new resource about the mbira is the two-book collection The Art of Mbira and Mbira’s Restless Dance co-written by our friend and long-time mbira teacher Cosmas Magaya. The books include video clips for easy virtual learning of mbira. Check them out here http://mbiraplatform.org/ and for purchase online at Smile Amazon. Speaking of Smile Amazon, while you find yourself with time, be sure to make Kutsinhira your supported charity and use the Smile Amazon portal so that your shopping benefits our organization.
I’m sure many of you are reading more. I stumbled across this fascinating article about the history of the Zimbabwean marimba written by Claire Jones, professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Washington and coordinator of the Zimbabwean Music Festival. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/216e/775b599eff4071e9a310e8ce5d068dc8abdb.pdf
And for your musical enjoyment, be sure to check out the newly released CD Tinofamba by Kudana, Eugene’s oldest marimba ensemble. http://kudanamarimba.bandcamp.com. You’ll recognize many of the songs which include beautiful vocals and the amazing talents of our friend and teacher Muskeiwa Chingodza and local Zimbabwean guitar extraordinaire Gilbert Zvamaida.
On November 9, Kutsinhira’s board and several other Kutsinhira members gathered for a visioning session about the future of the organization.
Kutsinhira last conducted a formal visioning session in 2011. Many goals from that 2011 visioning have been achieved:
At this year’s visioning session, after some fruitful brainstorming, participants prioritized the following four areas for further exploration:
Committees were formed to pursue the first three areas noted above. Given the breadth of the topic of growth, it was tabled for further discussion at a later time.
Kutsinhira has successfully established itself as an educational center for Zimbabwean music, as a sponsor for Zimbabwean guest artists, and as a grantor of funds to organizations doing work in Zimbabwe. We look forward to exploring the new possibilities outlined above!
Kwaziwai students, families and supporters – as our school year begins I’d like to welcome our students back. Our teaching program is stronger and larger than ever with 4 childrens’ marimba classes, 5 adult marimba classes including a new beginners class for the fall quarter, 2 mbira classes and a southern African singing class taught by our newest teacher Ratie Dangarembwa. This past year John Mambira also taught a Rhythms of Zimbabwe class for our youngest students aged 8-12. We hope to offer this class again in the near future. (more…)
Musimboti is a collection of tracks recorded by various Kutsinhira bands and members. It includes marimba, mbira, drumming and singing.
“I’m enjoying listening to this collection of marimba and mbira songs much more than I might expect to enjoy just any class recital. The Kutsinhira Center in Eugene has been spawning good players for a long time, and the ensembles represented here are fine examples. The album is enhanced by Zimbabwean guests Beauler Dyoko, Cosmas Magaya, and Musekiwa Chingodza, who perform with one another and with the Kutsinhira members on nearly every track. Mbira is well represented on Musimboti with Serevende Nyamaropa played by Musekiwa Chingodza and Jennifer Kyker, Nhemamusasa by Musekiwa, Beauler, and Cosmas, and Taireva played by Cosmas and friends.”
— Paul Novitski, Dandemutande