Danai Gurira’s time is usually spent swinging swords and fighting off zombies while filming AMC’s “The Walking Dead” in Senoia, Ga. But what many people don’t know is that Gurira’s passions not only include acting, but also playwriting and philanthropy.
Although Gurira was born in Iowa, she moved to Zimbabwe — her parents’ home — when she was 5. It was there, that her parents she described as academics, surrounded her in a world of learning and literature. Once she returned to the U.S. to attend college, she spent a semester in South Africa, where she discovered her passions.
“It was at that time really that I decided to devote my life’s work to the dramatic arts,” she said.
In December 2011, she co-founded Almasi Collaborative Arts, a nonprofit that seeks to foster collaboration between Zimbabwean artists and American theater professionals. A key goal is developing arts education for creative people in Zimbabwe. Its website includes the phrase “Kudzidza hakuperi,” meaning that “learning never ends.”
Gurira’s play “The Convert” is one of several Almasi projects. It’s set in 1895 in the part of Africa that would later become Zimbabwe. It tells the story of a girl forced to choose between her family’s African traditions and Western values that she’s embraced, according to a summary from Almasi.
When she’s not on the rural Georgia set of “The Walking Dead,” Gurira writes pieces for Almasi’s newsletter and Skypes with theater professionals who partner with the group.
She also hears frequently from female fans of “The Walking Dead” who relate to her character on the show.
“A lot of girls approach me and say ‘you make me feel strong,’ ” she said. I get that a lot from girls. Women of all ages actually.”
Gurira is now hoping that theater will inspire the people in Zimbabwe, and encourage other young theater professionals. Gurira said she also wants to help tell the stories of African women.
“I think it’s very important to encourage the Zimbabwean female voice to be as bold and as loud as it deserves,” she said.
If you’re interested in being a part of the Almasi Collaborative Arts, head to their site to learn more: http://www.almasiarts.org/volunteer/