Drinking to traditional dance


CLAD in blue African attaire, one would have mistaken Maramuro for a group of popular Harare soccer giants Dynamos FC supporters, but minutes later, they were revelling in their newly found fame after clinching this year’s edition of the Chibuku Neshamwari traditional dance competition.
Their links with DeMbare could not escape attention, both hail from the notorious Mbare suburb.
The blue and white bands tied to wrist and legs, coupled with their fancy footwork mesmerised the thousands who witnessed the competition.
Maramuro gave a splendid performance and outshined other groups with their well-executed dances.
Different groups gave fair performances but could not match the Maramuro’s polished act.
The Nyau dance comes in a variety of forms but the winners executed it in a simple yet modified routine(s).
The modern bits put into the routines saw fans easily relating with Maramuro.
As other groups performed similar dances, Maramuro put up a different and polished display.
So splendid was the performance that security had difficulties controlling fans from getting closer to the action on stage.
Leader of the winning group Amos Mukonhiwa attributed their winning to great members who put in extra hours to perfect their routines.
“We never imagined winning the prize as the competition was tough but it turned out the other way as we clinched the first position,” said Mukonhiwa.
“Mutare awaits us for the finals and we hope to do more than what made us win here.”
Apart from competing Mukonhiwa said their art and skill has seen them being invited to grace different traditional functions.
“As times are changing and African culture is at the risk of being eroded the Nyau culture has survived due to elders who continue to impart the skills on the younger generation.”
The Harare Chibuku finals proved to be what Mbare residents needed to enhance the 55th celebrations of promoting arts.
Another group from Mt Hampden, Beta, led by Chapito Ndowera, which has been performing in the Chibuku Neshamwari competition for the past 30 years, with the closest they have come to clinching the title being number three, said they participated for the love of the craft and transmitting culture to younger generations.
“We now do it for entertainment’s sake and educating the upcoming generations about our values and culture as a people,” said Ndowera.
In Zimbabwe, the nyau are mostly found among Malawian and Zambian immigrant communities
According to Vlad Sokhin on his website: “The Chewa believes that life exists within their ancestors and those not yet born, as well as the living.
It is understood that the nyau communicate with the spirits, or those who are dead, and the Chewa call this act pemphero lalikulu, or the ‘great prayer’.”
According to Chewa mythology, the god Chauta came down to Earth with a man, a woman and animals.
All of these lived together in happiness — that is until man discovered how to create fire.
All of the animals, except for the people’s livestock and pets, ran away from man in great fear.
The Chewa also believe in the presence of God in everyday life, and that God is both male, in the sky like a great rainbow, and female, in the earth like a womb, where seeds germinate and are the source of new life.
This spirit world is symbolically represented during the gule wamkulu dance.
The nyau dances themselves involve intricate footwork and flinging dust in the air and the dancers respond to specific drumbeats or songs depending on their mask type and character — often also incorporating reverse role-playing, proverbs, mimicking and satire in performances.
Children aren’t permitted to join the nyau until they are around 10 years old, and the initiation ceremony for a new member of the nyau usually begins with the initiate living in a cemetery for up to a week — a place that superstitious villagers are fearful of, even during the daytime.
Yet, hidden behind these intimidating masks, costumes and rituals are ordinary people, who also live normal lives.
The ZNTDA inclusion of the nyau culture in the Chibuku Neshamwari competitions has been applauded as an act of uniting and promoting other cultures from beyond Zimbabwean borders.
Mutare in Manicaland Province hosts the finals where many groups will be competing for the biggest prize come August 4.


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