Her laughter is contagious, her bubbly aura fills up any room she walks into. Every time you speak to her, it feels as if she is in character, like she is on TV, in a comedy series. Because with each and every line, you find yourself chuckling, giggling, or downright packing your lungs out.
Such are the first impressions one gets of the young, vibrant and free spirited comedian Anna Honde, a young woman who happened to stumble upon comedy and has over the last few years managed to pave her way in the dog-eat-dog industry. In as much as she still has a long way to go as far as her professional career is concerned, one can already tell that the sky is the limit for this dynamite.
Even before I sat down to hear her story, I was already giggly as literally almost every line she says is bound to have that effect. What strikes differently about this comedienne par excellence, is the serious, almost stern facial expression which is her trademark look. It is such that you have no clue whether whatever she is about to say is going to be serious talk, or yet another good bar.
“It was a coincidence actually, that I ended up focusing on comedy. It definitely had not been part of the original plot. I guess it has always been a part of me – I just did not realise how much of a natural I was at acting and being funny, until I entered Dreamstar in 2014,” says the Bulawayo born and bred artist who is originally from Bikita in Masvingo. Anna speaks passionately about the support she gets from her family, mentioning how her father is her biggest motivation, and her brother always asking, “When is our next skit, sisi Anna?”
Anna explains how in 2014, she joined a traditional dance group, Sekunjalo Ma’ Africa, and as a group they auditioned in Dreamstar, an annual talent contest which embraces talent from across the country, in the hope that she would win and take her dancing career to another level. Consequently, she got an opportunity to tour China for two weeks and thereafter worked there for a whole year.
“I learnt a lot during my stay there, a different culture, way of living, appreciation of the arts. And I came back home a much better creative, I must say!
Whilst I was there, loneliness would often get the better of me until I decided to do random funny videos using my newly acquired phone. It was mainly to keep myself entertained, but eventually some of the videos went viral and I discovered that I was now actually generating an audience that appreciated my videos. I would get endless messages encouraging me not to stop, so from then on I just continued even when I came back home.”
Anna mentions how she was performing on stage and was given a chance to make a quick impromptu speech, wherein she said, “Mulife, kana uri chibhebhi uri mumugodhi, ma1. Auya nhasi anoti ndipewo, uyo achitiwo ndipewo.” (If you’re a girl in this life, and you’re hustling on the streets, it is not easy at all as everywhere you go men prey on you and take advantage of your gender. This earned her the trademark stage name, “Chibaby,” and engineered the realisation that in actual fact, she was an actress, and a funny one at that!
She mentions that one of her biggest influences and inspirations has always been Kristine Hermosa, a Filipino actress who is popularly known for her role in the drama series Promise, which used to air on national television a few years ago.
Anna says her dream is to be a part of Nollywood as well as the bigger local projects that end up on Netflix, adding that she wishes to collaborate on film productions with other local acts such as Madam Boss. “As Zimbabwean comedians, if we come together I am sure we will create fireworks that will be recognised within our country and beyond.”
As far as scripting is concerned, she explains that the ideas automatically just flow as soon as she wears her trademark brown dress. “I do not write anything down, the magic is in the dress!” To date, Anna has no fancy studio equipment or camera crew except for her phone, that single gadget has helped her make her mark on the local acting scene. Such is her passion and sheer determination! “Time waits for nobody, you see, so you do what you can with what you have. I am the studio. I am the art.” She remains hopeful that one day, she will have all the facilities and resources that will enable her to do more professionally done full dramas.
Anna speaks passionately about the girl child and her rights as a human in society, adding that it pains her that women and girls seem to always have to work twice as hard in order to be recognised at half the level that men are viewed at. She laments of how she always used to notice abuse and gender based violence in society as a child, but was unable to say anything by virtue of her being young, adding that she is glad that as she grew older, she became more and more aware of the injustices that the girl child suffered, and consequently became more confident to speak out and sometimes share with her mother how she felt about such issues. It is no wonder why now this is a central theme in her skits, she has a very soft spot for women and girls and has been part of various initiatives that fight for the same.
About negativity, she mentions how it has definitely not been a rosy journey and she has not been immune to negative comments on social media, adding how sometimes it would affect her so badly that she would feel like giving up completely. Anna is very thankful for the support she has received from a fellow established comedian, Tyra Chikocho, whom she says encouraged her to keep going despite such challenges. “Social media is brutal, it is definitely not for the fainthearted once you dedicate yourself to creating and maintaining a brand.
When I think of Zimbabwean comedy and women in acting, I remember fondly the likes of Amai Rwizi and Amai Phineas from the 80s, Amai Besa from the 90s and Amai Sorobhi from the 00s. The nostalgia hits hard when I remember the laughs, the drama, the endless signature statements that even became part of regular language, thanks to these industry greats. To date, a common gossiper is still generally referred to as a Mai Besa, because of that 90s drama, Chirimumusakasaka Chinozvinzwira. And a woman in the heat of the moment, standing her ground and letting the world know of her wrath, is urged on by the phrase, “pengai Mai Sorobhi!” even twenty or so years on. Such is the impact comedy, acting, TV and media as a whole can have on society.
It dawns on me that the industry has come a long way and managed to give us some top notch entertainment in the form of these yesteryear legendary actresses. I am deeply grateful for the massive work put into their various productions, but it saddens me that some have retired, and some are now late. Saddening as this may be, nothing gives me more reassurance and comfort than the realisation that with the likes of Anna Chibaby Honde, all hope is not lost – the new generation is bringing forth fresh, new talent that needs to be supported by none other than us. With a steadily growing Facebook following of 116 000, it becomes apparent that there is definitely something the gifted actress is doing right even just with her phone, and that things can only get better if she maintains consistency and gains more support and recognition for her work.
As we end the interview amid plenty of chuckles, Anna’s parting message to fellow women is,“Talent will take you places, but good character will keep you there. You need to know who you are, stick to your principles and be disciplined in whatever field you find yourself in. Do not be swayed by society or naysayers that ridicule what you feel is right for your brand, or by people that discourage you when you are confident in your discipline. You can never ever please everybody, so you do what you can and you do it well. That is all there is to it. To my fellow girls, we need to speak up and know our rights. If you don’t, you will live a miserable and unfulfilled life in a bid to give unreciprocated love or please society at your own expense. Let us help each other as sisters in this tough world; the power lies in our hands. But above all else, let us be responsible for our own bodies and lives, because no one is going to do it for us.
“We only have ourselves.”
By: Prudence Natsai Muganiwah-Zvavanjanja