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Julia Tsitsi Chigamba (Oakland) with Oakland Youth Chorus
Award: $35,000 Traditional Arts Grant awarded in 2003
Premiered: 2005

Zimbabwean artist Julia Tsitsi Chigamba collaborated with members of the Oakland Youth Chorus to create Bembero Mudenbu, (The Celebration of the Basket), a multidisciplinary presentation of Zimbabwean music and dance that traced the history and diversity of the Shona musical tradition and its journey into the modern world. The performance wove Chigamba’s traditional music and dance with new musical arrangements and choreography to relate the story of her life growing up in a village in Zimbabwe, her transition to life in the United States, and her struggle to balance between traditional and modern culture. Through the project, she immersed the youth, adults, and families of the Oakland Youth Chorus and the community at large in Zimbabwean life.

Julia Tsitsi Chigamba is the daughter of the highly respected master mbira player Tute Chigamba, and a member of a renowned family of performers. At the time of this grant award, Ms. Chigamba was the only native traditional Zimbabwean woman dancer to have resided in the United States.

The Oakland Youth Chorus serves children and teenagers of the San Francisco Bay Area, dedicating itself to musical excellence, youth mentoring, cross-cultural dialogue, and community involvement. Staffed by professional musicians who are committed to sharing their knowledge with youth and families, it is known for its dynamic musical training and performances.