Chaka Chikodzi is a Zimbabwean-Canadian sculptor, musician, and community arts organizer in Kingston. He has exhibited his stone sculptures throughout Canada, and taught workshops in public and private schools, providing students with unique knowledge and direction that initiates an immediacy with an unfamiliar arts culture. Since moving to Canada, he has developed his skills as a marimba player, and has since started a band called The Resolutionaries who have played various festivals and soft seat theatres throughout south eastern Ontario. Chaka will be exhibiting his sculptures and performing with The Resolutionaries at this weekend’s Artfest Kingston, which takes place in City Park.
1. Tell us about yourself, your background with respect to visual and the performing arts and how you came to be involved in Artfest Kingston?
My background in the arts began in Zimbabwe, where early on I became interested in different types of craft as a way of making a little money from tourists. It taught me a lot about myself and the world around me, and soon I was able to see how art might play a much larger role as a tool of self-expression. I was mentored by my older brother in the art of stone sculpting, as many young people are in Zimbabwe, and learned how to maneuver the international stone sculpture arts scene (much like Inuit sculpting in Canada, Zimbabwean stone sculpture is an art form that is widely recognized as an important contribution to contemporary fine art). My sculpture has brought me to many places around the globe, but in 2001 I ended up in Canada where I have developed African arts based programming for young people and started a marimba band called The Resolutionaries with some of my former students. I moved to Kingston two years ago and this is my second year exhibiting my work and playing with my band at Artfest Kingston.
2. With over 140 artists and artisans participating in Artfest Kingston, the overall program is diverse and otherwise ripe with local representation/content. What can first time attendees and exhibitors expect?
Artfest Kingston is a great opportunity for artists and artisans from across southern Ontario to showcase their work. This year, Artfest has expanded its music programming, with live music being featured amongst the booths for the duration of the show as well as a main stage where many bands will play throughout the day. It’s a great place to talk to artists about their work and support local artists. There are so many great gift ideas, whether hand crafted leather accessories, jewelry, carvings, paintings, or sculpture, and everything is handmade. It’s a diverse group of artists that craftspeople that makes for a really fun and inspiring experience.
This year Artfest is four-days long and is being held at City park, so the overall theme of all the arts programming is City-in-the-Park. There are lots of new features this year, including the 20x20ft theatre arts tent next to the food area with the Shadowland Theare group leading free workshops in costume making, stilt walking and performance. PLUS the 80ft mural is happening again, and there is a new 32 ft mural for kids to do their own. We have a Canada Day Grand Finale Shadowland promenade through the park and a short performance in front of the completed murals, at 3pm Tuesday. And included in the promenade is a giant 12ft high puppet and the fathers’ of confederation giant heads. Definitely not to be missed!
3. As a repeat exhibitor and performer, do you have any special moments that stick out in your mind from last year? What makes Artfest Kingston an event that people should not miss out on?
Last year the weather was great, the art was really exciting, and everyone seemed to be having a really good time. The atmosphere at this event is really charming. Everyone is friendly and enthusiastic about the work, and vendors left feeling really positive. It just keeps getting better every year.
4. Aside from your involvement in Artfest Kingston, you are also the director of the Kingston-based Africville Dandaro Arts Centre. What sort of programs does the centre offer, and do you have any special events planned for the Summer?
Yes, Dandaro Arts Centre is a project that stems from the artistic activities that I have been involved over the past years here in Canada, which have included concert series and Black History Month programming, stone sculpting exhibitions, and arts and music workshops in schools. Dandaro Arts Centre has lots going on this summer across Southern Ontario, starting with a performance by Zimbabwean all-star band Mokoomba at The Grand Theatre on July 9th. This is a really rare opportunity to see this level of performance from an African band here in this city, so don’t miss out!
Additionally, Dandaro Arts Centre has run a summer youth camp for high school students since 2009 called “Out of the City”, built around a week-long stone sculpting workshop where each participant is given a piece of volcanic rock from Zimbabwe to sculpt, using only hand tools and working outside under the summer sky like sculptors in Zimbabwe. With the support of the Ontario Arts Council, I’ve been able to budget full funding for each participant and offer billeting to ensure accessibility to a truly diverse range of participants. In addition to stone sculpting, students participate in an extended program of artistic mediums, all designed to foster communication and forge relationships between the students. The first week-long camp session will be run from July 14th to the 18th at The Gristmill Studio in Westport, and the second session from August 18th to the 22nd at The Woolen Mill here in Kingston. More information about Out of the City and other Dandaro Arts Centre programming can be found on the centre’s website.
5. Your band, The Resolutionaries, are also scheduled to perform a mix of age-old Zimbabwean tunes, modern innovations and transatlantic “livasporic” music during Artfest Kingston. How important is it for you to have numerous creative outlets in your life? How do you split your time and talent between these competing passions?
The vision behind Dandaro Arts Centre was to build cohesion between all of these different creative outlets, because they are all connected. The seasons in Canada limit what you can do, but also provide some structure as a result, so in the winter months I spend time planning and in the summer I execute those plans. The music has always been a part of my life, so it feels really natural to make time for it. I teach my two young daughters to play as well, so that they have music in their lives and that way it all fits into the big picture.
6. Finally, what are your expectations for this year’s festival? Which exhibitors/performances are you looking forward to this most?
I think it’s going to be a great festival this year. I’m looking forward to the food vendors, since there are more of them this year, and I am definitely going to pick up some more all-natural pepper sauces from Pepper Brew for bbq season, and maybe a gift or two for some upcoming family birthdays. And I am really pleased with what Lory MacDonald has done with the Community Art Tent, which allows both adults and kids to have a place to participate in the excitement with great programming from 10 am – 6pm each day. I know my girls will be attending one or two of the workshops.