Standing up for Black lives – 07/03/20

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
Chris Donahue
Erin Ely
Andrea Olson
Betsy Priddle
Lynne Swift

Kutsinhira staff:
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

Update: Continuing Closure

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 or to our Education Director Sue Dickman at 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 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.

And for your musical enjoyment, be sure to check out the newly released CD Tinofamba by Kudana, Eugene’s oldest marimba ensemble. 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.

Kutsinhira Visioning 2019

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:

  • Relocate. In 2016, we achieved this longstanding goal by moving the center to its current site at the Village School — a much more central location (and a lovelier space!).
  • Increase enrollment. Kutsinhira’s educational program has regained financial stability and diversified, with more marimba classes and students overall, more children’s classes, an ongoing mbira program, and new Zimbabwean teachers on staff.
  • Increase support of ZCDP. Kutsinhira’s annual financial support for our Zimbabwean Community Development Program has increased, expanding the impacts of the funded projects in Zimbabwe.

At this year’s visioning session, after some fruitful brainstorming, participants prioritized the following four areas for further exploration:

  1. Community Outreach and Service – How can Kutsinhira be of greater service to the Eugene-Springfield community?
  2. Fiscal Sponsorship – Shall we engage in fiscal sponsorship, a legal arrangement that could allow Kutsinhira to facilitate more projects consistent with our mission?
  3. Zimbabwean Resident and Guest Support – How can we create and facilitate more paid opportunities for Zimbabwean musicians living in Eugene and visiting Zimbabwean artists?
  4. Growth – In what ways do we want Kutsinhira to grow and how might we accomplish that?

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!