Mass displays affix Bulawayo’s Zim cultural hub status

The Chronicle

Mthabisi Tshuma, Showbiz Reporter
DOING easily what others find difficult is talent and doing what is impossible with talent is arguably genius.

This in short is the story of the creativity displayed by the Bulawayo creative sector and schoolchildren from Sobukhazi and Mzilikazi high schools who grabbed with both hands, the opportunity to perform at the main Independence Day celebrations which were held in Bulawayo at Barbourfields Stadium for the first time.

To many, questions have arisen as to why the City of Kings and Queens has been touted as the cultural hub and for the Independence Day celebrations attendees and those who viewed the event online, the status was affixed to them without any doubt.

The significant moment of the mass displays was the reality that over 10 groups from the city were given the platform to showcase their art in front of over 60 000 people and the First Citizen President Mnangagwa, his family and senior Government officials.

President Mnangagwa

This was the first date for many who will forever cherish the moment which has spiced up their CVs.

From cultural dance groups, kwaito and pantsula groups, to a gospel group, the versatility of the display was mouth-watering. The array of artistes included outfits Simunye Simunye, Victory Siyanqoba, Sunduza Dance Theatre,

Snipers Crew, Khaya Arts, Image Music, Hloseni, Umkhathi Theatre Works, Iyasa, Megatronz, Vocal X, Siyaya Arts, Songs of Lozikeyi, Ezimnyama Dance Ensemble, Tinashe Harare, Lady Tshawe, Jeys Marabini and Sandra Ndebele.

Being on their level best seemed to be on their minds with arts guru Saimon “Mambazo” Phiri being the driver of the whole production which has set tongues wagging, not only locally, but regionally.

Setting the tone for the mass displays were Mzilikazi High and Sobukhazi High school students who expressed their teachings in the physical education curriculum. As some performed on the ground, some were by the stadium’s “Empankweni” stand displaying placards that were branded with different messages including Zim @42 Leaving No One Behind, Restore family values, God Bless Zimbabwe, Sethule, and a drawing of President Mnangagwa.

The display went a notch further as the act was fused with cultural acts from the aforementioned local groups before the schoolboys summed it up with karate and martial arts performances.

Saturday Leisure caught up with Mambazo and some of the groups who reminisced their experience.
Mambazo said he waited for two years to have this dream come to fruition as the 40th Independence Day celebrations that were slated for Bulawayo were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic which saw the event being held as a hybrid.

“There were obviously bigger plans for the 40th Independence anniversary which ended up not happening two years ago so I took some of what would have happened and used it this year. This production focused on the journey of Mama Zimbabwe who has come of age.

“It fused the different music styles, the many dances and numerous cultures that still make us one. It was based on Zimbabwe’s story, her social life meeting her spiritual upbringing and her political beliefs and struggles meeting the ‘not so political’ side of her to share her true journey through song, dance and poetry.

“Stunning traditional, contemporary song and dance from the heart of townships, rural communities, farms, villages, mines, and urban dwellings of Zimbabwe aided us in celebrating the greatest African instrument — the human voice and help celebrate Zimbabwe’s Independence. We used over 100 male and female singers, dancers, musicians, poets and actors for the celebration,” said Mambazo.

He said the dances were a reflection of the way of life in every corner of Zimbabwe.

“The high energy dance-drama had dances that included (without limitation) isitshikitsha, ingquzu, Jerusalem mbende, pantsula, muchongoyo, imbube, Tonga, Nambya and Kalanga. An exploration of the rhythms and sounds of the Zimbabwean drum (ngoma) also was a highlight of the production. The mbira and marimba featured prominently also,” said Mambazo.

With more time and a better understanding of the concepts and vision, Mambazo said more could have been achieved.

“In terms of meeting the expectations of the general public, the good thing is that the public didn’t know what to expect and the organisers seemed satisfied and happy. But, I believe that these celebrations belong in a city like Bulawayo where people will embrace and show value for the activities.

“They should also be taken to other places so that they stay relevant,” he said.

Iyasa director Nkululeko Dube said: “It was a landmark event for us which was more like a homecoming, especially having been part of the many galas over the years all over the country. We relished the experience of having to play in front of our legion of fans in the city.

Iyasa director Nkululeko Dube

“We took the people back in time and displayed our modern and yesteryear hits and dances. It was about history meeting today and celebrating the 42-year Independence milestone so we tried to impress both the young generation and the elderly who’ve supported our work over so many years.”

Dube said they performed so well that some dignitaries even joined them in dance.

“I think we did our best as always. It’s always interesting how younger performers take over the baton from those of yesteryear and still manage to wow audiences,” he said.

Umkhathi Theatre Works member and 2021 National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) Outstanding Female Dancer Lorin Sibanda who was part of the dancers said: “It was an honour to be selected to be part of this event. Working with other groups was amazing. I loved the team spirit as we worked as a family. And in the end, the production was on point.

The audience screamed throughout our performance because it was well displayed, well-choreographed and the energy was too much. We were all in smiles as we performed for the nation.”

Khaya Arts director Future Dube said: “It’s always an honour to be selected to participate at a national event as it boosts our CV. This wasn’t our first time but this time around, the bar was definitely raised as the choreography, energy and synergy were on another level.”

Snipers, a group of six males with a focus on kwaito and amapiano, through their director Ezra Tshisa Sibanda said:

“We felt good being on stage entertaining everyone that was present that day. We believe we delivered a good performance that raised the bar high.”

Charles Mahlaba

Sunduza Dance Theatre leader Charles Mahlaba said the city’s creativity made all artistes jell together well.

“We showed the world that we’re indeed from the country’s cultural hub through our performance which was stunning. It was great performing for a receptive crowd that enjoyed the presentation of our culture,” said Mahlaba.
Ezimnyama Dance Ensemble director Phibion Ncube said as young people, they were impressed by what the Government is doing in terms of supporting creatives. — @mthabisi_mthire

Article Source: The Chronicle

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