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Castle of our Skins debuts new creative residency

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Castle of our Skins debuts new creative residency
Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa. COURTESY PHOTO

Castle of our Skins has unveiled its brand new Shirley Graham Du Bois Creative-in-Residence program and the program’s first resident: vocalist, composer and multi-instrumentalist Tanyaradzwa A. Tawengwa. During the course of the residency and with the support of the $1,000 honorarium and other resources, Tawengwa will create new work, write in-depth articles for the Beauty in Black Artistry blog and co-design at least one production with Castle of our Skins.

Since its establishment in 2013, Castle of our Skins has been educating audiences about black musicians and composers and moving the needle forward through innovative mixed-media concerts. The residency is the latest in a history of programming that engages the public. The residency is named for Shirley Graham Du Bois, an author, activist and composer who developed an international and interdisciplinary legacy.

Tawengwa is known for compositions that blend Western classical music with Zimbabwean classical music in an inspired cultural mash-up. Earlier this year, she performed an operatic recital telling the story of her family during the Zimbabwean liberation struggle of 1965-1980. In that way her work bears resemblance to Du Bois’ in their mutual desire to have cross-continental conversations. Tawengwa’s recent projects include composing the soundtrack for a short film about Zimbabwean writers, “Some Writers Can Give You Two Heartbeats” and performing in a live-streamed festival for queer and black trans lives. She will be with Castle of our Skins from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

The funding for the residency comes from Arlene and Larry Dunn, a couple based in Ohio. The two are social justice activists and ardent supporters of new and underrepresented artists.

Ashleigh Gordon, artistic director of Castle of our Skins, said in the residency announcement, “I’m very excited that Castle of our Skins is able to share its platform and welcome a new voice, with a completely different approach and energy, to our season. And moreover, I’m incredibly grateful for Arlene and Larry Dunn’s generous support to help make sure that we can offer this position in not only this upcoming season, but for many seasons to come.”

Tawengwa will break ground as the first artist to hold this residency and to explore its potential. Castle of our Skins anticipates that the program will allow many artists to flourish and work collaboratively with them in the coming years.

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