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Empowering the community through arts

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By Fidelis Manyange

THE area within the boundaries of Murehwa and Chikwaka/Goromonzi has numerous undeclared heritage sites. 

The mountainous area which lies between Shavanhohwe and Nyagui (Nyaguwe) rivers has outstanding features like Domborembudzi, Nyaungwe and Mavanze mountains, among others, which when viewed from the top, resemble the shape of the World Map. 

The area, which houses Chikupo, Chumachangu, Mhembere, Murenge, Nyamutumbu and Mukombami villages, among others, is a hub of arts activities. 

It has produced, and still produces, both performing and visual artistes. 

It is home to the late legendary composer, singer and dancer Tineyi Chikupo.

One youth, Tinashe Kaseke, who hails from Mhembere Village has decided to bring together talented youths and elders of the community through arts and community-based tourism. 

Kaseke, who went to school at the local Mukombami Primary and Secondary which is next to the popular leisure centre called The Village or PaChimutsa, has formed an organisation called Afro-Tourism and Cultural Advancement (ATACA).

It is a community-based arts organisation made up of more than 600 local artistes. 

The structures of the organisation is made up of elderly and traditional leaders who play a cultural custodian role. 

They are the custodians of the community’s natural heritage sites. 

“As we do our operations as an arts and tourism organisation which include mass arts exhibitions and performances, we are integrating corresponding stakeholders like the tourism and hospitality industry,” said Kaseke. 

“Our central aim is to indulge in cultural socio-economic and educational regeneration as well as the promotion of community-based long-term projects aimed at conservation of nature, while sustaining development in order to improve our living standards. 

“This, we are doing, keeping in mind Vision 2030 of an upper-middle-income economy.” 

Kaseke said he was inspired by Tengenenge Arts Village in Guruve which created jobs for hundreds of sculptors in the area and also the Murehwa Culture Centre established at Murehwa Centre decades ago which created jobs for villagers from surrounding villages. 

Murehwa Culture Centre is synonymous with annual Mbende Jerusarema and Mbira Festivals. 

A Mbende Jerusarema group from Murehwa performs at a Cultural Centre. (Picture by Fidelis Manyange)

Kaseke, who is also an artiste, said his establishment ATACA is involving everyone and every heritage site in the community under the mantra: ‘Leaving no-one and no place behind’.

Kaseke is the son of the late prominent Chikwaka sculptor Moses Kaseke who, together with others like Bernard Matemera, Tapfuma Gutsa and Brighton Sango, put Zimbabwe on the map through sculpture as they made an impact on the international sculpture market in the 1980s and early 1990s. 

His works of art involve weaving colourful bags and traditional regalia worn by performing artistes which are called ‘crammies’. 

He has done ‘crammies’ for many cultural dance groups, including the Tradition Airforce Group. 

The talented artiste has teamed up with other local youths in manufacturing traditional instruments, such as mbira, marimba and drums for sale to local and foreign groups.

“Our area is blessed with functional places which we can currently use for our exhibitions and performances, like The Village Place of Chimutsa in Mukombami, Inyagui and Shavanhohwe Riversides open places,” Kaseke said.

In addition, the organisation is being assisted by veterans in the form of yesteryear visual and performing artistes, television and film actors and producers from the area, like some of the members of the traditional dance group which was awarded ‘Winners of The Proclaimed Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity (UNESCO 2006) as well as actors of the drama, Liberate Rhodesia done in the 1970s.

Others include the local Mhembere Dandanda Group of Elders who performed at the late Queen Elizabeth’s palace in the early 1990s and several winners of the Chibuku Neshamwari Arts Festival.

Terida Sewera from Chumachangu Village in the area, a retired film director and actress who directed several movies, including Neria, More time and Yellow Card, among others, is also assisting the local would-be actors and actresses from primary to adult level under the ATACA arts organisation. 

Kaseke who also assists the Prisoners and Correctional Department of Murehwa in training its traditional dance group said ATACA is aimed at empowering the whole community by hosting music and dance festivals and other cultural activities, tour guiding domestic and foreign tourists and introducing them to traditional foods.  

“This month-end we are holding an arts, cultural tourism programme in our area which is primarily meant for our children and elders to tour and know our heritage sites as well as enjoy the richness of our arts before taking them to outsiders,” he said.

“Most youths think that projects are rearing of chickens and gardening, so we want them to know that arts combined with our heritage sites are bigger projects which can lead to self-sustainability if taken seriously.

“On a parting note, we, as ATACA and residents of Murehwa, are appealing to our traditional leaders, organisations such as EMA, National Museums and Monuments, to help us rescue our heritage sites like hills, mountains and rivers from marauding religious sects that come from near and far to pollute, deface and defile them in the name of worshipping and healing.”

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