By Nathaniel Gondo
Everyone has a natural aptitude for at least one endeavor, which is the definition of talent. There are rarities, however, that find themselves gifted in a wide array of disciplines.
They are gifted to be the gift that keeps on giving. One such person is Kuda Rice. At just twenty-five, Kuda Rice is making an exigent impact on Zimbabwean poetry, fashion and art.
The multi-disciplinary artist is most known for his exploits as a poet. Even he has lost count of the spoken word performances he has delivered on stages around Zimbabwe.
In 2022, he released a pristine combination of music and poetry titled Beneath the Veil EP.
The six-track project explores themes of love, loss, and self-discovery. It is a powerful and moving exploration of the human condition.
The poet’s expanding reach in creative circles has earned him a budding modeling career. To date, he has worked with notable brands like Fungai Muzoroza, Savage (SVG), Vanessa Hodza, and The Advocate.
Kuda’s meteoric rise is a testament to his talent and hard work. He is a gifted wordsmith with a unique ability to capture the human experience in his poetry.
His work is both thought-provoking and moving; and it has resonated with audiences around the world.
And Zimbabwe has been taking notice. He has worked with renowned artists such as Tahle weDzidza and Bryan K. He was also nominated for the Outstanding Poet at the 2022 NAMA Awards.
We had the privilege to have a conversation with Kuda Rice; and the discussion touched on his early life as a creative, his experience as a multi-disciplinary artist; and his insights on the past, current and future of Zimbabwean art.
Below are excerpts of the conversation we had:
Who is Kuda Rice?
Kuda Rice is a Zimbabwean writer and storyteller. His storytelling is mainly portrayed through poetry and spoken word, which he fuses with different art forms such as music, fashion, and visual art to bring out not only creative ideas but ideas that convey a message to people.
How did you discover your passion for poetry, fashion, and modelling?
I’ve always searched for a means to express myself creatively; early on, when I was younger, I would do that through dance and drawing or painting. I then came across the beauty of language and being able to depict images by simply using words while impacting people’s lives, which is a main and important factor for me.
This made me get into poetry as a means of storytelling, which I then extended into showcasing visually by collaborating with photographers. Somewhere along the journey, I discovered that fashion is an incredible medium of storytelling too. The combination of poetry, fashion, and visual storytelling (photographs) pushed me to occupy the modelling space.
How do you balance these three, and which can you say is your favourite discipline?
It has been easy to do all these different things. I don’t ever find myself needing to consciously work towards finding balance. There’s a natural and seamless relationship between the different disciplines, and it has been easy to operate in these different spheres because they have been interconnected, and my poetry leads me into fashion spaces; being in fashion spaces leads me into poetry spaces.
All these things work perfectly together for me. The way I see it, I’m expressing my poetic nature, whether through spoken word or the poetry that is in the visual components of an image or video that I’m modelling in. If I were to separate the disciplines and pick my favourite, that would have to be writing or poetry because everything else stems from that.
On the modelling and fashion side, which brands have you worked with, represented, or are still working with?
I have been privileged enough to work with some really incredible Zimbabwean designers and brands. These include Fungai Muzoroza, SVG, Vanessa Hodza, The Advocate, and others.
How has the experience been?
The experience has been incredibly rewarding. I have managed to connect with some amazing fashion creatives that are doing spectacular work in Zimbabwe, and that has grown my love for fashion. The collaborations I have seen and been part of have really cemented within me the amazing possibilities that occur when creatives come together. I have also gotten to satisfy that part of me that loves going out and exploring creative pursuits.
How did you end up being interested in all those three disciplines?
I don’t separate the disciplines. At my core, I am a poet and storyteller, and whatever venture I fall into is simply an extension of that. Whether that is fashion, modelling, short films, etc., they are all expressions of my poetic nature.
I’m a storyteller at the end of the day, and I’m finding ways to do that, and I so happen to be interested in fashion, which then made me naturally fall into that area.
And what does each discipline require in terms of commitment?
All of the disciplines require time and effort as an investment. You have to be willing to work on the craft, learn more about it, and continuously improve your execution of it. With poetry, the more you read and write, the better you become. Fashion and modelling, on the other hand, require you to continuously be experimental, try out different ideas, push limits in terms of what you are wearing, or go for an out-of-the-ordinary photoshoot idea. The objective is to know and identify where the box is and then you travel thousands of kilometres away from it.
What is the state of these three disciplines, and which one do you think is lagging and which one is progressive?
There has been spectacular growth in the fashion space. My knowledge of it isn’t exhaustive, but from what I have seen these past three years, there has been major progress. There seem to be more fashion shows, and more designers are becoming more prominent in the arts industry by contributing to music videos, films, and shows and styling major artists.
The poetry space, on the other hand, seems to fluctuate; it seems to be at a certain steady point, and it’s struggling to grow past that. There are many incredible initiatives and platforms that pop up from time to time, but some of those platforms struggle with inconsistency due to many factors, and so the “poetry industry” isn’t collectively progressive as much apart from individuals who are doing incredibly well based on their own brilliance.
What do the creatives need to do so that the masses accept these disciplines?
The creatives have already gotten it right; they are creating authentically, occupying every space they can, and being unapologetic about their work. We need to continue shifting cultures and occupying spaces. Those are the important things to do if we’re to get people to not only accept but also invest more in these disciplines.
I’m an advocate for authenticity, which I encourage creatives to grab hold of, and once they do, the audience won’t help but accept the importance of these disciplines. There is so much positive impact being spearheaded by storytellers, and these include wordsmiths and those that are showcasing our past or present culture through garments.
What challenges do you encounter in these disciplines?
The main challenges I face are the ones that I feel most creatives face: struggling to fully sustain yourself with your creative disciplines, mainly due to not being adequately compensated for your work, not being treated as an individual that can bring value, and growing at a slower pace.
The gradual growth aspect is mainly because we exist in an environment that doesn’t allow us creatives to fully thrive, and beyond thriving, we struggle to grow to our fullest potential, meaning we often have to settle or compromise. The soil here isn’t fully fertile enough to accommodate those who have a purpose to pursue creativity and art.