Interviewed at her home in Cincinnati by Sandra Grady
9 October 2011

Madeline Ndambakuwa was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia before the country gained independence and both the city and country were renamed Harare, Zimbabwe. She belongs to the Shona ethnic group, and grew up experiencing both the city life of Harare and the rural areas outside of it. She was educated in a variety of schools, and at the age of eight, when she had to be briefly home schooled when the Zimbabwean struggle for independence disrupted education. Her talent for art and fashion design became clear when she was young, but she had little training in arts in school. When she finished secondary school, she first studied Fashion and Cutting Design before pursuing arts training in Zimbabwe through a sister college of Virginia Commonwealth University.

After her studies, she worked as a textile designer in Harare for 11 years before coming to the US to pursue further study in Fine Arts. She first attended Midland Lutheran College in Nebraska, then moved to the Cincinnati Art Academy, and finally to Cincinnati State before her lack of finances stopped her from continuing in school. As a State Tested Nurses’ Assistant, she worked in nursing homes and hospice centers in the Cincinnati area. Working with those patients inspired her to pursue her artistic dreams. Ultimately, she found work that allows her to write and paint from home. Madeline notes that people moving to the US underestimate the financial struggle of maintaining a life here, and as a result, many immigrant artists drop their work in order to make a living.

In addition to painting and drawing, Madeline writes poetry and has acquired a diploma in Broadcasting from the Ohio Center for Broadcasting. She writes primarily in English, but sometimes creates in Shona which she translates into English. She has self-published a book and CD of poetry called Twinkles of Dawn through Her second book is also a collection of poetry called Comfort, published through She has just recorded a video performance of her poem, “I Cannot Be Subdued,” and is working on a third book of poetry. She sees the unifying message of her work to be that faith, hope, and courage color life like a masterpiece.

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