Whispering Silence is a digital storytelling project by Zimbabwean multimedia creative Charmaine Chitate that documents the lives of people who still champion traditional customs – traditional dancers, vocalists, healers and leaders. The project will feature storytellers from Manicaland and Masvingo provinces, both well-known hubs of traditional customs, as well as contributions from storytellers in Harare province.
During its first phase, funded by Africalia and the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation of Belgium, Whispering Silence sought solutions for the ongoing COVID-19 induced environment through the retelling of ngano. A ngano, the Shona term for folklore, is used to impart life lessons, alternating humans and animals as protagonists. The timelessness of the stories told offered solutions to navigating the ‘new world’ and how each storyteller hopes communities will re-engage in a post-COVID-19 environment.
In this second phase of the project, virtual reality technology will be used to add further layers of shared experiences and unique perspectives to illustrate how traditional practices continue to shape us in our everyday lives. Over eight months, Whispering Silence VR will collect and convene stories from 10 contributors into a single online exhibition accessible to the public.
Charmaine Chitate is an interdisciplinary artist working with computer-based media as an anchor. Her work is an exploration of her understanding of identity. It is complemented by photojournalism and VR/AR content production. In 2019 her project ‘I am a Woman Defined/Stories About Her’ was shortlisted as one of the top 6 projects in the virtual reality category from the continent by Digital Lab Africa. Charmaine is a member of the Project Management Institute’s Zimbabwe Chapter and the Zimbabwe Association of Female Photographers (ZAFP). She is also a 2020 “Creativity Is Life” Lauréat funded by Africalia and the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation of Belgium.