By Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
ENTERTAINMENT is a very big industry worldwide and it comes in various forms that include sports, music and drama, some of whose genres are treated as cultural in origin or in content.
A part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region comprising Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and Namibia has developed more or less close social and cultural relations that have resulted in relevant exchanges among those countries.
Zimbabwe and South Africa are particularly close to each other in this regard, and have been so for as long as one can recall.
A memorable historic example we can give of such social and cultural co-operation was a very important part played by the unforgettable Johannesburg-based black quartet, The Manhattan Brothers, in a fundraising campaign for Nyatsime College founded by Stanlake Samkange, later Professor Samkange, in the mid-1950s.
It was that quartet that brought the inimitable Miriam Makheba to Zimbabwe on their tour having, earlier in South Africa, deeply inspired a Zimbabwean-born lass, Dorothy Masuka who later loomed large on the region’s entertainment stage.
Many South African artistes have since that time performed in Zimbabwe, and several Zimbabwean professional singers and dancers have also been to South Africa to entertain large audiences.
Lately however, there has been controversy surrounding one South African professional entertainer, Zodwa Rebecca Libram, aka Zodwa Wabantu, who has been widely reported to ‘entertain’ by dancing without wearing underpants, or knickers, also referred to as ‘bloomers’.
Zodwa’s type of entertainment is said to have taken some segments of the South African population by storm.
It is also reported to have offended other segments.
Her Zimbabwean ‘admirers’ have been disappointed once or twice when she did not pitch up, ostensibly because the Government would not grant her permission to perform in the country.
Last week, the Zambian Government also barred her from performing in that country and even deported her 12 hours after her arrival, particularly because of her reportedly knickerless dance.
Some of Zodwa’s supporters later complained that governments that find her type of stage of performance unacceptable should realise that it is an innocently cultural entertainment and should not be banned.
That brings us to two important questions: What are entertainment and culture?
To entertain means to amuse or to occupy agreeably.
Entertaining involves words, actions, food and/or beverages that please and/or amuse targeted audiences or spectators, or guests, that is to say, the targeted groups’ visual, aural, feelings, tastes and/or smelling faculties.
Culture comprises traditions, customs, mores as well as the arts and other human intellectual manifestations and achievements when considered collectively.
Dancing, singing, poetry and drama fall under arts since they require some skill for their production, presentation and performance, so do other types of performing arts such as various dances.
We now look at Zodwa and her bloomerless dance: Does it actually show a particular skill or skills such as jerusarema, isitshikitsha, the hosana rain dance or the mazenge (omagidela endlini) of the BaKalanga, the opera or the English country dance?
One would inevitably think that many, if not most, of those who are attracted by her dance are men with strong pornographic tendencies.
There is nothing cultural about a woman dancing while clad in clothes likely to expose her genitals to spectators or audiences.
Not even the history of ancient oriental harems, where some sheikhs kept scores of enslaved women who were occasionally required to parade and dance before their owners (the sheikhs), do we come across such women exposing sensitive parts of their bodies to the limited number of selected spectators.
They could expose their breasts all right as there was (and there is) nothing morally offensive about that, and that is why women suckle their babies on trains and other means of public transport, a practice that is very common in most African communities.
Exposing one’s genitals is certainly culturally offensive in that it stimulates the libido of some of the spectators while exciting their sexual desire and energy.
Female genitals excite male people as male genitals likewise do females.
Lewd dances undoubtedly contribute to the occurrence of rape and in South Africa, those types of dances should be openly and strongly condemned because of the already appallingly high rape incidence in that country.
People are bound to differ on this matter due to their respective family, social and cultural backgrounds.
Believers in conventional traditional Christian doctrines such as the Roman Catholics, the Seventh Day Adventists and several other denominations are strongly opposed to indiscriminate human body exposure.
Bantu culture is also strongly opposed to the public exposure of one’s sexual organs.
That Bantu tradition goes to the extent of referring to various human sexual organs as ‘amaphambili, mbeli’ or by other similar words rather than calling them by their specific names.
To avoid public criticism and/or unnecessary controversy, professional entertainers would be well-advised to measure their public social behaviour by asking themselves: Would my parents praise or condemn this statement or action?
In virtually all human communities, mentally and emotionally normal parents or guardians would like their children or wards to be held in high esteem by everybody.
That cannot be the case if the children or wards expose their genitals to the public as a way of earning a living.
We must hasten to explain that there are always exceptions to every cultural practice and social rule.
Because of that, some parents and guardians do not bother themselves about their children’s and wards’ behaviour or how they earn their living.
To them, it is a case of the end justifying the means.
However, the duty of every responsible and respectable Government policy is to protect the public from unscrupulous behaviour or utterances and even irresponsible thoughts by some people whose minds do not conform to generally accepted morals.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email: firstname.lastname@example.org