In addition to being Zimbabwe’s most renowned and internationally recognised cultural icon of all time, Oliver Mtukudzi was this afternoon conferred with an honorary doctorate from Great Zimbabwe University (GZU).
Tuku, as many of his fans know him, was capped by the university’s chancellor, President Robert Mugabe. The full title of his degree is Doctor of Philosophy in Ethnomusicology & Choreography (Honoris Causa).
The musical legend was greeted by cheers as he arrived at the graduation ceremony at the university’s main campus in Masvingo.
Before he was conferred with the doctorate, his impressive citation was read. It mentioned Tuku’s long career as a musician, a journey that many of his fans know was marked by years of struggle as the artist tried to make a mark.
It also spoke about many of his international awards, his role as UNICEF goodwill ambassador, his 63 albums, non-stop local and international tours and his philanthropic activities.
A highlight of the citation was the mention of Tuku’s Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton, just outside Harare. Tuku established the centre 10 years ago, primarily using his own funds. The centre provides a platform for young artists of all genres to come together and grow skills, perform and access audiences. These services are provided at no cost.
Pakare Paye also offers conferencing facilities, catering, high class accommodation and studio hire service.
During his acceptance speech, Tuku thanked the university for seeing it fit to bestow such an honour upon him. “In all my life, as I was doing what I was doing, I didn’t think that people were watching,” he said. “It is humbling to be honoured in this way.” He went on to ask the university to acknowledge other artists. “There are others out there, please do this for them too.”
When he was done with his speech, President Mugabe had a special request. “Please can you sing Sarawoga for me,” he asked.
Tuku obliged and crooned out a few lines from the song, much to the delight of the President and the 3,500 people gathered for the ceremony.
Speaking to guests at a dinner hosted for Tuku by GZU last night, Vice Chancellor, Professor Zvobgo said that the university took a long, hard look at the artist’s life before deciding to confer him with an honorary doctorate.
“We have seen his great contribution to this country,” said Professor Zvobgo. “He is not a local icon, or an African one, he is an international icon.”
He went on to recount how once, while on a British Airways flight, he had been surprised to hear Tuku’s song, ‘Neria’ playing.
A total of 1063 students graduated in various faculties at GZU today. Tuku was the sole recipient of an Honorary Doctorate and became the university’s second recipient of a doctorate honoris causa, after President Mugabe received one last year.
After the graduation ceremony, Tuku and his wife were special guests at the opening of the University’s Herbert Chitepo Law School which was also officiated at by the president. The school was named after Zimbabwean liberation war hero and first black lawyer, Herbert Wiltshire Tapfumaneyi Chitepo (June 15, 1923 – March 18, 1975). His widow, Amai Victoria Chitepo and two of their children Dr Thokozile Chitepo and Kule Zvenyika Chitepo were present at the opening.
Tonight Tuku celebrates his doctorate with fans at a Midlands Hotel show in Gweru.