Murewa cultural heritage soldiers on

HARARE - A cloud of dust rises in the air, while young women and men ululate and clap hands, as the prime dancers shake their bodies energetically, dancing the night away.

The young men and woman in the middle of the circle, formed by spectators and cheerers, dance in unison sensually, astonishing the crowd with acrobatic movements.

The drum beat meanders to complement sophisticated dance steps and chants yelled by singers who also clap in unison using woodblock clappers to make a clanging striking sound.

The Mbende-Jerusarema dance echoes in their veins, an escapism from the modern life which has imprinted huge scars on old traditions.

Traditional dance has remained the most audible voice giving a discourse of Zimbabwe’s rich historical heritage. 

As Zimbabwe’s African customs become a mere depiction of history, the grandeur of Murewa people’s culture continues to stand the test of time, through the Mbende-Jerusarema dance.

A heritage held so dear by locals, passed down to toddlers from generation to generation.

The rich culture portrays community solidarity, whilst depicting traditions that were hailed by past descendants.

Murewa Correctional School of Arts Band director, Nyamundaya Gashirayi said that the dance portrays the Murewa people customs and beliefs which have survived centuries of extinction like many other local cultures.

“The dance goes back to the time the missionaries came to colonise Zimbabweans, armed with the Bible. The missionaries found that Zimbabweans had their own dances and means of communication.

“They also discovered the Mbende dance and they did not welcome it because they believed that it did not edify Christianity. So our ancestors at that time decided to rename it Jerusarema, and when the whites heard the name Jerusarema dance they welcomed it,” Gashirayi said.

The dance, originating from Murewa and practised by Zezuru-Shona people, has stood the test of time, although many people categorise it with Muchongoyo, another traditional dance which is different from Mbende. 

With an astounding record of African cultures being diluted through European cultural diffusion, Zezuru people in Murewa, among few others, have soldiered on against cultural diffusion.

Zimbabwean culture is generally rich in customs and traditions which diversify in every region, but Murewa has astonishingly upheld its cultural heritage while many others have disappeared. 

Modernisation has caused many African customs to perish, while modernisation thrives as the preferred culture.

Mbende-Jerusarema is reportedly recognised even by United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

The ancient fertility dance has remained popular with the locals, who continue to exhibit the dance for visitors and other people willing to learn about their culture through dance. 

The late veteran drummer Douglas Vambe was well known in the modern circles for his Mbende skills, which wereexhibited on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation news bulletin for years.

While other schools in the country have continued to uphold Zimbabwe’s heritage through traditional dance and drama competitions, many cultures have died a natural death.

While Zimbabwe has spectacular historical scenery for tourists and visitors, the Zimbabwean traditional dances remain the grandeur of the opening of many high-level events.

Gashirayi passionately spoke about the traditional dance which is admired by many Europeans, including Head of the European Union Delegation to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Timo Olkkonen who had a chance to watch their astounding Mbende-Jerusarema dance.

A survey by the Daily News on Sunday revealed that even children in primary school are knowledgeable about the Mbende-Jerusarema dance which forms part of the Zezuru culture that has survived acculturation.

The Zezuru people in Murewa continue to safeguard their heritage by conducting Mbende-Jerusarema festivals and by passing it on to the next generation as an inheritance that depicts the history of the ancestors. 


 

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