HARARE, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- It was a night of glitz and glamour as young Zimbabwean artists, exuding zeal and energy, showcased their artistic talents at the sixth edition of the 2019 Dreamstar Zimbabwe talent search competition on Saturday night at the Harare International Conference Center .
The Chinese-sponsored grand finale, which was graced by dignitaries including Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe Guo Shaochun and Zimbabwe's information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, left an indelible mark on the country's arts industry that is yearning for more support for local talent to make it in onto the international stage.
The grand finale was a culmination of various auditions that were done throughout the country starting in April with a "University Tour" targeting university students, followed by the "Dreamstar City Tour" which identified raw but talented artists in various towns and cities of the country.
Saturday night's televised event saw 17 young artists groups battling it out for the coveted prizes in such genres as music, dance and acrobatics.
The five judges, who included Chinese ambassador's wife Wang Wei and the affable state radio Star FM presenter Nicola Dora popularly known as Nikki, had a torrid time selecting the top winners from the splendid performances.
But at the end of it all, only three winners had to emerge and the biggest prize went to 25-year old Midlands State University music student, Monalisa, who showcased her prowess in singing and dancing.
Monalisa performed a fusion of traditional and contemporary Zimbabwean songs during the three-minute period that was given to each artist or performing group.
In the three minutes, she wowed the crowd and managed to prove that she had what it takes to be a shining star.
The elated Monalisa told reporters afterwards that she was overwhelmed to be the first female winner in the history of the competition since it was launched six years ago.
She walked away with 30,000 Zimbabwe dollars (about 2,780 U.S. dollars) prize money, while the first runner-up walked away with 15,000 Zimbabwe dollars.
The second runner-up walked away 7,500 Zimbabwe dollars richer.
Among other prizes that come with the competition, the winners will have an opportunity to tour and work in China as well as recording deals with event organizer and sponsor, the Jacaranda Culture and Media Corporation (JCMC).
Monalisa said she will use part of the money to fund her wedding in December this year.
"It's overwhelming. I can't explain it and I still can't believe that I have won," she said.
She said she was going to immediately put to use the recording contract she had won.
"Recording has always been part of my plan and now that I have a contract, I guess it's time to start," she said.
Guest of honor and Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa lauded China for Dreamstar's role in complementing Zimbabwe government efforts in developing the country's cultural and creative industry.
"Since its inception in 2014, the talent promotion has grown in leaps and bounds as it searches the nation for talented, young artists and moulds them into seasoned performers as a means of fighting social ills like drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, HIV and AIDS and unemployment
She said Zimbabwe, recognized as a country with a strong creative and artistic flair, was keen to strengthen its cultural cooperation with China, noting that artistic and cultural exchange was paramount in cementing Zimbabwe-China relations.
"Our countries need to continue to learn and lean on each other. We know that China is unparalleled in making the arts and culture conduits for their development. So Zimbabwe wishes to reaffirm the Sino-Zimbabwe relations as we continue to stand with the global giant in championing development of the cultural and creative industry," she said.
Chinese ambassador Guo Shaochun said Dreamstar had become a signature project of cultural exchange between China and Zimbabwe.
He said the cultural and people-to-people exchanges, a pillar of Zimbabwe-China relations, were deepening while cooperation in music, dance, and arts was being dynamic and productive.
"Many talents have been discovered through the program and up to now, almost 200 of young Zimbabwean artists have got the chance to go to China for various events, functions, festivals, and culture exchange programs," he said.
Under the Dreamstar program, the Chinese government this year awarded full scholarships to six young artists who were selected from previous sessions of the competition.
The annual event is founded and organized by the China Africa Economic and Culture Exchange Research Center, the Jacaranda Culture and Media Corporation (JCMC) in partnership with the Chinese Embassy and the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe.
Officials at JCMC praised this year's edition of the show.
"It has been a six-year long journey but full of fun and enjoyable. We got lots of help from the Chinese and Zimbabwean community and this year we pushed the youths to love arts, improve on their acts and to aim higher.
"The quality of the performances this year has been outstanding. I believe this is one of the best finales. Some of the artists were quite young and they all enjoyed the show. In every competition there are losers and winners but today (Saturday night) no one was a loser," said JCMC founder Zhao Ke.
Artistic director at JCMC Leonard Mapfumo said the organization had big plans for the competition.
"Our plans for the future are very big. Zimbabwe has artistic potential but this talent is not exposed. We believe that we need to put them (young local artists) on a platform that the world can see," he said.