The Queen of Batonga: Her Unstoppable Reign of Transformation, Representation and Ubuntu..

In every woman there is a Queen, and in Marvellous Tshuma, there is one and then some. It is therefore only fitting that she is known to many as ‘The Queen of Batonga’, a befitting moniker and proof that you don’t need to wear a crown in order for people to embrace you. An awe inspiring young lady hailing from Binga, this multi talented Singer, Songwriter, Poet, Actress, DJ, Vocal Trainer and Philanthropist didn’t have it easy and had to overcome many challenges from as far back as her childhood. But her experiences only made her stronger. And with a resolute determination to help the less privileged, she has dedicated her God given talents and time to doing exactly that. Queening and winning, we caught up with the Queen of the Batonga in the wake of her 25th Birthday to hear what she had to say…

 

Can you briefly tell us about Marvelous Tshuma growing up?

Well, my name is Marvellous Tshuma, Queen of BaTonga, MarvTee, recently turned 25 on the 17th this month. I grew up in a village called Samende Syabanga in Binga, went to school at Samende Primary school, and had to be moved to other cooler areas because the heat was taking a toll on me in Binga. Me being the only person with albinism in the whole family brought a lot of talk in the family and it was not nice, but it didn’t affect me at all because my mother and uncle loved and cared for me. As a person with albinism l experienced discrimination and societal segregation but that made me the stronger being l am today and it became the foundation of the work I do.

 

What does “The Queen Of BaTonga” stand for?

The Queen of  BaTonga  is very personal to me and it carries a big weight as it bears the cultural background of the Tonga people. l represent the culture through music and arts, as a woman championing the Tonga culture. My fans from Zambia and Zimbabwe made it stick. To me it is a badge of honor that l carry wherever l go. Even now when I’m in Harare I’m addressed as Queen by many. It’s obligatory to me as l have to break new ground for the people with albinism and most importantly the BaTonga people and claim social space for my culture.

 

You’re a musician, songwriter, actress, MC, DJ, poet, philanthropist, vocal trainer, Vice Chairperson at The Noble Hands Zimbabwe Trust: what keeps you going in wearing all those hats/jackets?

Well sometimes I wonder too!! I just trust it is God who keeps me going. I thank the people around me who always see worth in me and keep pushing me for better. It’s not easy but the way l view it God made me wear all these jackets because they are interconnected, because the goal is to have an impact on the livelihoods of people in the communities- I’m for the people and for the people only.

 

From all the above, what are you most passionate about and why?

Having grown up in different places with different experiences, I became passionate mostly about helping people regardless of who they are, especially people with albinism who are at the bottom of the societal structure. Music is my God given talent, I’m very passionate about music; transformative, uniting, cultural and gospel music. Through music I must leave a mark for the generations to come after me so that they can learn through my work.

 

Let’s talk about The Queen Of BaTonga as a singer and songwriter. What stimulates you when you’re writing your songs?

My music is living testimony of the day to day toiling of people in the communities. I write songs when I’m in a good mood, and when I’m down, I do the same. I write songs mainly to express how I will be feeling. Overall, my music is a reflection on culture and society; the pain and joy that is part of society. Seeing and experiencing these realities gives me the push to compose and sing about it.

 

You are one of the 10 finalists to collaborate on the Voice2Rep Zimbabwe’s first collaborative album ‘Freedom’. How does it feel and can you tell us about your part in the collaboration?

V2R…. WOW, I really enjoyed working with them. It was a great experience. I discovered then that for sure I don’t struggle on writing a song at all, and it was also an opportunity for me to promote my heritage and culture. I did a verse whereby I was expressing the way I felt about being part of the great team and ending discrimination in society. The experience made me discover talents l never knew l had.

 

There are a lot of questions and myths surrounding albinism. What do you want people to know about albinism?

Well, there are a lot of myths surrounding albinism in our very own cultures which have subjected people like me to abuse and untold suffering; physically and psychologically. Albinism does not mean I’m different from other human beings; I just don’t have melanin, my skin is vulnerable to the sun, and I may have eyesight challenges. Even for me, it gave me challenges in school. Other than that we don’t have special powers, we are not witches, we are not goblins. If you sleep with an albino you won’t get lucky charms, as the traditional healers say. My body parts as an albino don’t have special powers, l am a normal human being like anyone..

 

You are identified as a person who is passionate about promoting her heritage. What message do you want to send out?

I urge Zimbabwe’s Arts Sector to embrace our culture, (good cultural practices). Let’s embrace our heritage, and above all, if you are an artist, be you, be known for the person you are on and off the stage. Let your art have a positive impact in building society and cultural norms.

 

As a person who gives back to the community, what inspires you to do such wonderful work?

What l do together with The Noble Hands Zimbabwe Trust is what defines humanity, having empathy to those in need. I’m inspired by my very own mentor Cont Mhlanga who took me in and sharpened my talent and taught me everything l know about radio broadcasting and arts through Amakhosi Arts Center. I’m inspired to give to others through the talent God gave me, singing.

 

You’ve launched many campaigns and donations. How do you manage to initiate them all?

Well the credit is not mine alone. It specifically goes to The Noble Hands Zimbabwe Trust team from the Director up to the last person, who have supported me from day one. l was made the Program manager and Ambassador for the Albinism Konect Program 2021-2025 and I’m grateful for the opportunity I was given to stand up for people with albinism. We have created WhatsApp groups where I interconnect people with albinism to become a family, sharing day to day experiences. This is how we get information about cancer patients and other problems that are affecting my people. Our approach is an inclusive one rather than prescriptive and by so doing we become a family. Twitter is the App that works for me better, because its organised, and easier to convey a message to the people. Transparency and Accountability, Integrity and Dedication are the cornerstones of the organisation and it makes our work easier.

 

What are the trials that you face in commencing all these projects and how do you conquer them?

Fear of the unknown is one challenge that hampers progress and our Director is one man who is not scared to do things. I have learned a lot through him on how he manages tough situations. For any project to become a success the team needs to understand the vision and be ready to do the work on the ground even with limited resources. We are already running Albinism Konect Program 2021-2025 but we have no funding. And one initiative at a time; God has been leading. I am thankful.

 

As a philanthropist, what more would you like to do?

My aspiration is to build a school of Arts and Skills Training targeting people with albinism and also a Cancer Clinic dedicated to people with albinism so that their talents are nurtured and are effectively used as a sustainable means of survival. It’ll also ensure that those with cancer are attended to quickly before it gets worse.

 

How would you spend a typical weekend?

My typical weekend is normally packed with church choir training sessions and recording sessions in studios.

 

Which place in Zimbabwe would you describe as the most beautiful?

Inyanga. I’ve never been there but from what l have seen and heard that place is beautiful.

 

Can you leave us with a quote in your own words?

“Never get tired of doing good even if the odds are against you; an airplane always flies against the wind. It’s better to spend your lifetime in the service of orphans and vulnerable people as it is on its own its Ministry. Let’s always help others for no payment wherever we are. That’s Ubuntu!

 

By: Chido Kakora

 

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