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Bunker of Zion in Brid! Guest post from Hannah Davies

Updated: May 3, 2022

ARCADE is thrilled to be joining the Collaborative Touring Network as we join other organisations around the UK to make and tour life affirming shows with communities and artists. Our first project with the network is Bunker of Zion. Find out all about this glorious project from our associate artist Hannah Davies with her guest blog below!


Imagine a world without creativity; no stories, no dance, no music, no art. Self- expression is

forbidden, on pain of death. Then imagine a secret bunker in that world. A place where

people meet illicitly, to tell their tales, dance their passions, and save their souls.

The Bunker of Zion is a performance experience created by Zimbabwean musician and

performance artist, John Pfumojena and his ensemble. It is rooted in the lived traditions and

cultures of the Shona people, a vibrant explosion of music, storytelling, playfulness, and

dance. The bunker performance will tour to locations across the country, where John and

his ensemble will work with an Associate Artist and their community group, to create their

own devised material to feed into and respond to the piece.

I’m Hannah Davies, a writer, theatre-maker, poet and performer and delighted to be

working as Associate Artist on this project with ARCADE and their Young Women’s Creative

Collective. We will be working together to create material to feed into a bunker

performance in July of this year. Last week the Collective and I met up with John and two of

his team, Kudzanai Chikowe (a dancer) and Tawanda Mapanda (a musician) for the first

time, to spend time experiencing the Marimba music, and learning the rhythms and dance

that will define the show. We were joined by Diana Logan, ARCADE’s producer for the Bunker of Zion project. Diana is also Course Leader on Coventry University Scarborough’s Actor Training in partnership with the Stephen Joseph Theatre, and she brought some of the

course’s first graduating students along with her to join us for the sessions with John and his


We all spent a joyful weekend in workshops that brought us together clapping and dancing

the Shona people’s traditional Mhande rhythm – a tempo that is used to call on higher

powers and to connect with the wisdom of ancestors. Led by John and his ensemble we all

had fun embedding this tempo into our bodies, and though we started out with shuffling,

giggling and getting claps and steps all over the place, by the end of the weekend we were

all able to hold time together and move as one through the sequence. John taught us how

essential rhythm is to their culture and likened the very nature of being human to a drum,

the heart within us beating our life force out with every step we take through life.

As well as the music and dance, we also spent some time sharing playground games

together, this being a very important part of Zimbabwean tradition, as John said ‘we are

serious about playing!’ We all worked together swapping and sharing games with Tawanda

and Kudzanai while John played live music to support our running, jumping, leaping and

laughing. When you commit with full focused intent to playing and being silly, the joyful

energy you get in return is threefold, and I cannot wait to see how we bring audiences

together in Bridlington later in the year to remind them of the simple life-affirming power of


Recognising and celebrating our lineage and passing on our stories on our own terms are

some of the important themes in the Bunker of Zion piece and there was time in the

weekend to swap stories and consider the way that we tell them. The Shona people’s

culture is an oral tradition which means that storytelling and narrative is truly sacred. When

stories are oppressed and silenced then the culture is destroyed. Whose story we tell, how

we tell it, when, how and why are all important factors within the imagined world of the

bunker. In the workshop we shared snapshots, fragments and moments from our own

ancestry and thinking about how we celebrate and engage with stories and traditions from

other cultures was a powerful way to end the weekend.

In the true spirit of cultural exchange, we also made time to take John, Tawanda and

Kudzanai to see the sites of Bridlington. Jen, a member of the Young Women’s Creative

Collective (as well as ARCADE’s trainee producer on the project) is Bridlington born and bred and she took us down to the seafront for delicious fish and chips at North Bay Fisheries. We sat on the harbour to eat them, fought off a few seagulls, and watched some children

netting for crabs, and then took a speedboat ride out onto the sparkly North Sea. Once back

on land, we walked out past the spa and spent a bright but windy hour on the beach where

John, Tawanda and Kudzanai practiced their drumming and dance. Then we walked down to

Fraisthorpe to show our guests the old war bunkers that are dotted along the coast.

The Bunker of Zion is an exciting project, a glorious and unapologetic celebration of a

suppressed and silenced culture. I’m really looking forward to working with the members of

the Young Women’s Collective to help them devise and shape their response material and

to throw a little bit of Yorkshire East Coast seaside magic in for good measure. One of the

takeaways from the weekend for me was something that John said about how we pass

things on, and the importance of coming together to share expression and creativity:

‘energy can never be destroyed in a circle. It just keeps on going.’

Tickets will be release for Bunker of Zion in Bridlington shortly, check this page for details.

Bunker of Zion is presented by John Pfumojena, The Old Courts & Collaborative Touring Network. Devised by John Pfumojena and the Company,



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