Stella Chiweshe Biography| Age, Career, Awards, Personal Life, Death
Stella Chiweshe, also known as Stella Rambisai Chiweshe Nekati or Mbuya Stella Chiweshe was a Zimbabwean musician renowned for her exceptional talent in playing and singing the mbira dzavadzimu.
This traditional instrument is deeply rooted in the culture of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, and Stella was among the few female players who mastered it.
Stella Chiweshe was born on July 8, 1946, in Mujumi Village, Mhondoro.
Despite social taboos against women playing the mbira and British colonial restrictions on cultural activities, she dedicated herself to learning the instrument from 1966 to 1969.
Despite facing rejection from many teachers, she was finally taught by her uncle. During this time, Chiweshe also courageously performed prohibited Shona spiritual ceremonies.
In the 1970s, Stella Chiweshe’s music became a platform for promoting nationalist and women’s rights causes. Her career as a recording artist began in 1974 with the release of her single “Kasahwa” under Teal Records.
Stella Chiweshe was not only recognized for her musical talent but also for her spiritual presence on stage. It was common for her to take snuff while performing, adding to her unique and captivating stage presence.
Billboard Music Award (1993)
Zimbabwe Music Silver Jubilee Awards – Female Most Outstanding Contribution to the Music Industry of the Past 25 Years (2005)
Zimbabwe Music Silver Jubilee Awards – Best Mbira Artiste of the Past 25 Years (2005)
National Arts Merit Award (2006)
National Arts Merit Award Lifetime Achievement Award (2020)
National Arts Merit Award Legends Awards (2021)
Stella Chiweshe’s husband was Peter Reich, a German citizen. She lived in Germany for several years and during this time, she continued to perform and promote Shona music and culture.
Her daughter, Virginia Mukwesha, is also a talented mbira player whom Chiweshe trained from a young age, passing down her musical legacy to the next generation.
Stella Chiweshe passed away on January 20, 2023, at her residence in Kuwadzana, Harare, after battling brain cancer.
The Director of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, Nicholas Moyo, confirmed the news of her passing. He said:
It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of Nama legend, Mbuya Stella Rambisai Chiweshe, 77. Her daughter Virginia Mukwesha-Hetze informed me that Mbuya Chiweshe died peacefully from cancer of the brain at home in Harare this morning.
According to her traditional customs, Stella Chiweshe was laid to rest in Nekati Village under Chief Masembura in Bindura on January 24, 2023.
Nyaradzo Funeral Parlour provided an expensive casket, but during the burial ceremony, her body was removed from the casket and wrapped in a reed mat (rukukwe) and cloth before being lowered into the grave, in accordance with the traditional practices.
It was reported that Stella Chiweshe’s family honored her wishes by burying her in a manner that would allow her to be easily connected with her ancestral spirits.
As part of these traditional practices, the media was not allowed to be present at the graveside, and only traditional music was played at the funeral wake.
Chiweshe had instructed her family not to include any gospel songs in her funeral.
As such, no gospel songs were sung and no Biblical sermon was preached at her funeral and burial, with everything being conducted according to African traditional rites and rituals.
Additionally, women who were still going through menstruation and young children were also barred from coming closer to the graveside, in accordance with the customs of the Shona people.