IT’S everything Oliver Mtukudzi has worked for, the foundations of a rich musical legacy which sets him without peer in Zimbabwe and the region.
Norton, a small town 40km west of Harare, is the 60-year-old singer’s chosen heritage capital, the place he has called home since leaving the hustle and bustle of Harare back in 1996.
Here, Mtukudzi has – over the last eight years – been quietly building the Pakare Paye [That Same Old Place] Arts Centre in his image.
Spread across 16 acres of an old industrial park, Pakare Paye was originally designed to be a centre for developing and nurturing young talent in various practical artistic endeavours in the fields of music, dance, drama, poetry, martial arts and storytelling.
The first phase of development included a multipurpose auditorium, a curio shop, an editing suite, an administrative wing, boardroom, offices, changing rooms and an outdoor stage.
But with time, Mtukudzi has updated the plan to include a bar, restaurant, conference centre and most recently 26 luxury chalets – almost exhausting his entire personal fortune.
He refuses to put a figure to his investment, but a local private property developer told New Zimbabwe.com the land and developments on it would value Pakare Paye at close to US$2 million on today’s market.
“It’s everything I have worked for,” Mtukudzi told New Zimbabwe.com during a tour of the centre last week.
“It’s far from complete, we are getting new ideas every day,” he said, flanked by his wife, Daisy, who manages the Sam Mtukudzi Conference Centre which is dedicated to the memory of their late son.
A small farming town known chiefly for its proximity to Harare, and the little geographic reality of being on the major road linking the capital and Bulawayo, Norton has appreciated the arrival of the Mtukudzi’s.
A road leading to their home, just three kilometres from the Pakare Paye Arts Centre, has been renamed Oliver Mtukudzi Drive by the local council.
Dreaming big ... The new chalets built on the grounds of Pakare Paye Centre in Norton
Mtukudzi admits that by committing his entire personal fortune to building the centre, he took a great financial risk. Yet he is keen to point out that in a career spanning more than four decades, taking the easy course has not been his defining quality.
“Judith Sephuma, Ringo Madlingozi, Steve Dyer and Yvonne Chaka-Chaka have all been here and they were amazed by what we are doing. It was partly from those conversations that the idea of building a lodge came about ... when artists have just performed and they need a rest, it’s not ideal to put them back on the road for a drive to Harare where there is hotel accommodation,” Mtukudzi said.
The result has been a development of 26 lodges with bathrooms en suite and classy furnishings. These are open for public booking, but the larger rooms will be reserved for artists on show days, said Daisy, who has an office at the Sam Mtukudzi Conference Centre, while her husband works from the main building.
The Pakare Paye Centre grounds are littered with sculptures – one of Mtukudzi’s passions – including one which he claims is the tallest in Zimbabwe. Mtukudzi has personally named the sculptures designed by several local artists, including his friend, Dominic Benhura.
The walls of the main building’s foyer are decorated with local and international awards the star was won over a career spanning nearly 40 years.
After nearly 50 albums and a similar number of years in the music industry, Mtukudzi has anointed Norton and Pakare Paye a Mecca for his millions of fans. He will not stop singing, he says, until he loses his voice. When that happens, God forbid, his fans will not need a star to lead them totheir hero, living or dead.