NETHERLANDS-BASED Zimbabwean songstress, Vimbai Zimuto, who has been entangled in a social media meltdown after splashing her nude pictures on the internet that have divided opinion, said she was not an attention seeker. Defending her pictures as nude art in a wide-ranging interview, Zimuto (VZ) told NewsDay (ND) Life & Style reporter Winstone Antonio that her music was already doing well before she decided to express her “other side” as an artist. Below are excerpts from the interview.
ND: You shared a condolence message for the Ethiopian Airways victims through a nude picture. What was the connection?
VZ: That photo symbolises the feeling of a person who has just lost their loved one; that emptiness, and that feeling where you lose your senses because you’ve lost the most important person in your life. You feel stripped of everything that you have. You feel destroyed, crushed, hit like a nail by a hammer.
That is what the art portrays.
ND: How has your family responded to the controversy around the nude pictures?
VZ: Most of my family members totally understood what that photo meant. Some of them had to ask so that they understand. None, and I repeat, none of my family members judged me at all. They know me and the person that I am, and my being.
ND: Some people think this is a mere publicity stunt because your music hasn’t got much impact. What would you say to that?
VZ: My music was already doing well before I decided to express my other side as an artist. I have worked behind the scenes for 16 years as a backing vocalist for the late Oliver Mtukudzi, Tanga Wekwa Sando, Umoja CFC, Music Crossroads and Daughters of Africa, among others, so people never knew who I was and what I am. I started to build my brand less than two years ago, and I am a lot more than what you see now. I am an actress and a writer. For those who follow my Instagram, you will see almost all my quotes, poems and posts I sign to confirm that I originated them. I am also a dancer.
ND: What inspired you to take up nudity as a form of art?
VZ: Nude art is the most pure art there is from body art. You can see emotions, expressions, anger, happiness, sadness, weakness and truth. But it is for those that are open-minded enough to see beyond the nakedness.
ND: From what you have experienced so far, do you think Zimbabweans are ready for it? Do you see a time, perhaps in the future, when it would be fully embraced?
VZ: At first, when I started, there were more negative than positive reactions. People were angry, disappointed, frustrated and so forth, but I did not stop because my voice is so loud and I chose not to be overshadowed by the ignorant lot. However, now if you go on my Instagram and Facebook pages, you’ll see that many people are starting to hear and understand the voice behind the pictures.
ND: Would you say this new trajectory has made you more popular?
VZ: Of course, it has made me more popular. Everyone on social media is there for attention. Every company that is on social media, television and radio is there for attention. All banners you see in the streets, it’s about attention-seeking. So, yes, it did and I have a lot more to offer my followers, fans and those who love my works. This is just the beginning.
ND: Almost everyone who follows you on social media is curious to know who took those nude shots.
VZ: The photos on the beach were taken by my dance partner, who is also my friend’s husband. His name is Benjamin Voet. He’s Dutch. And the recent ones were taken by a Zimbabwean professional photographer, whose name I will reveal on the day of the exhibition in July.
ND: What happens during the shoot? Do you get to say your opinions?
VZ: Most of it are my ideas, but as professional photographers, they bring their spice to the photos, too, since they are the ones looking in the camera. Most art is team work.
ND: You also indicated our ancestors were comfortable in their own skin. Would you recommend we go back to their type of dressing?
VZ: No! Embracing your cultural confidence does not mean you want to cook on firewood everyday, but the day you do, you feel something warm in your heart.
Tired, but fulfilled. Being free is a lot of things and white people understood that by just looking at our ancestors. And they did not like the way they were so free; not worrying about who had bigger boobs or butt than the other, or who was lighter than the other.
ND: Looking at your music and pictures, which would you say is more popular?
VZ: I prefer to make money with my music than being popular. The least popular musicians in Zimbabwe are the ones making bigger money. Popularity in Zimbabwe has a different definition these days, and it has never fed anyone.
ND: Your parting shot
VZ: Well, I would love to thank my late grandmother who never gave me boundaries to my creativity. She was my pillar of strength, and I still live by her wisdom. And to my fans who have grown to love my art and understand me more, I love you all.