For Vimbai Zimuto, controversy could as well pass for her second name. She loves it. She lives it. And, indeed it stalks her.
Like her shadow, controversy has been trailing her over the past year or so.
She is famed for her nude pictures, which she proudly calls “art”.
To many, she appears to be relatively new in the arts industry with her “nude art” being her entry signature and springboard to fame.
Wait! Vimbai Zimuto has been in the arts industry for nearly two decades with three years of her career having been spent working with the late music icon Oliver Mtukudzi — a cultured man for that matter!
It is unfortunate that after parting ways with the late superstar, her music failed to find its way to the large audience, as she would have wanted, but it earned her performances at big international stages.
It is, however, the Netherlands-based artiste’s nude photographs that turned her into an overnight sensation, with many shunning her for being “uncultured” while some lustfully celebrating her to the point of privately requesting her snaps — exposing her privates.
Away from the stage and her art, Zimuto is a mother of two — Keisha (16) and Katie (8).
She is a bona fide follower of the Holy Word and a believer in God.
On the other hand she is a self-confessed traditionalist and culturist.
The Herald on Saturday Lifestyle caught up with the songstress, who was in the country last week for the Shoko Festival, at Monolio Studios in Hatfield, Harare.
Donning an Adidas tracksuit and sneakers, dreadlocks loosely landing from her head, the songstress opened up, rubbishing most of the perceptions many people have and anticipate when meeting her, especially after her artistic displays.
“I try to live a normal life away from showbiz,” she said. “I have a family, children and people I love. I always want to protect them from people on Facebook, who sometimes pass inappropriate comments.
“I had my first daughter when I was 20 years old. I was not married and did not marry the father of my child. It was one of those stupid childhood mistakes,” she laughed.
Single parenthood taught her perseverance, from attending lectures at Zimbabwe College of Music, going for rehearsals, recording her music and even performing with her daughter strapped on her back.
Her vision has always been to achieve greatness in art, and not let anything stand in her way.
“I had my second child with my ex-husband. We were married for four years, but went our separate ways after realising our cultural differences, which cost our marriage.
“I am very cultural and conservative about how to raise my children. I married someone who was as strongly cultural and as conservative.”
She revealed that her ex-husband was Dutch.
Although her marriage failed, Zimuto never gave up on love.
Despite many “vultures” offering her large sums of money for sex, she has refused to be tempted into prostitution, choosing to stick to her boyfriend.
“I have been in a steady relationship for the past three years,” she said. “My man is very sensitive, so I will rather not disclose his identity because people may end up taunting him on social media.”
Not many men would appreciate their partners posting nudes online, art or not, but Zimuto’s mystery man is truly a rare breed.
“He is the one who pays for most of my photo-shoots. After the first set of pictures, the attention I got bugged him a bit, but he soon got over it.”
One would expect Zimuto’s other relatives, especially those living in Zimbabwe, a largely conservative country, to be against her nude art.
“My parents passed on when I was young so I was raised by my grandmother with the assistance of uncles and aunts. They understand that the nudity I do is art. I remember at one time being summoned by my uncle in Budiriro asking why I was spreading nudity. When I tried to explain myself he actually laughed saying how would I take that seriously when I knew he was open-minded enough to know that it is art.”
As for Zimuto’s children, their upbringing in Europe, where nude art is practised even in high school, has played in their mother’s favour.
“My children are in a foreign land where art is big. Keisha has come across nude art and models at school during her classes while Katie at one point asked me why one of my pictures looked like that of Selena Gomez. My eight-year-old, Katie can even bath with her father, something that is considered taboo in Zimbabwe.”
Zimuto said not exposing nudity is one of the reasons why HIV is still rampant in the country.
“People are used to major in the things that really do not matter like nudity. If it is normal to see a nude picture, then one does not react as if nudity it is all about intercourse.
“People are dying of AIDS since we refuse to openly talk about things that matter because of culture. My art, therefore, challenges people to accept that things have changed. To accept who they are so that they do not do things in hiding.
“Our ancestors understood that men want variety in women, and they had polygamous marriages — rarely were they infected with sexually transmitted infections. But now when every other man has a ‘side chick’ the HIV virus is spreading like wildfire.”
When asked why, someone who claims to be a champion of tradition and culture then deviates from local cultural norms, Zimuto said: “There is need to develop ourselves as much as we preserve what is important. Tradition is not about staying stagnant in preservation. It is like in music where a genre evolves to include different foreign elements, but it keeps the original major instruments that anchor it,” she said.
“I never lost who Vimbai Zimuto is and, besides going back to our history, womencould walk around with their behinds and breasts exposed. It did not matter how one was dressed, what mattered most was the manner in which one carried themselves.”
Looking at her, she has the making of a modern woman, but Zimuto also has tenets of traditional culture anchored in her heart.
She even balances a bucket of water on her head and fetches firewood.
“Having been raised a Catholic, I believe in God, but I also believe in the power of traditional medicine and healers.
“I do not, however, believe in witchcraft, because if the science of flying in a winnowing basket (rusero) was true, we would be the most advanced group of people, not needing fuel to get around,” she said.
On how nudity aligns with Christianity, Zimuto said it was purity.
“Nudity was the most pure thing God has ever given us. The reason why we are wearing clothes is because of sins,” she said.
Besides being a musician, she is an actress of repute, a dancer, and choreographer, among many other things.
She dances to several traditional tunes, including muchongoyo and mbende.
Zimuto is into charity work in her hometown, Chitungwiza, and is employed by a logistics company in Netherlands.