AS a teacher employed by the Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, little did he know that his transfer from Uzumba to Mutoko — Mashonaland East — was going to lead him to fame.
Upon arrival at Nyadire Primary School, he was happy to join the traditional dance group at the school as its patron. Music was not in his blood, but after getting to know much about Jerusarema/Mbende drills he is now a champion of the cultural dance in the communities of Mutoko, Uzumba and surrounding areas.
Tirivangani Nemabvute (40), a primary school teacher in Mutoko has become a special figure in the community of Uzumba and Mutoko through his work — teaching youngsters cultural dances and songs.
He has become a well known Jerusarema and Amabhiza dances trainer in the province of Mashonaland East. The soft-spoken teacher is taking his skills to the youngest kid in the area in a bid to build the waning popular traditional dance.
“I started having the passion of training children about their cultural dances five years ago.
“I am not a dancer myself, but because of cultural erosion I realized that it is my obligation to help the community through training the children about their heritage.
“Fortunately, I am the traditional dance trainer at Nyadire Primary and my efforts are bearing fruits.
“We are conquering the whole province with my traditional dance group clinching top tittles.
“At times we are invited to play at private functions, something I am really proud of.”
Nemabvute said he is on a mission of recruiting more than 50 children who are to receive traditional dance lesson free of charge.
“By end of this year, my target is to teach at least 50 children and I am expecting to double the number next year.
“If the parents agree to release their children, Jerusarema dance will live forever in this province.
Parents from Mutoko and Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe hailed Nemabvute’s efforts.
“His passion about reviving and sustaining our culture is of great importance in this community and we will support him till he realises his dream,” said Lydia Ndanga from Mutoko.
Another parent Lizzie Mutswiwa from Uzumba said: Culture is very vital in every society and champions like Nemabvute must be praised for their role in building the community in this aspect.
The Mbende/Jerusarema dance is a popular traditional dance style characterised by sensual and acrobatic movements by women in unison with men, driven by a single polyrhythmic drummer accompanied by men playing woodblock clappers and by women handclapping, yodeling and blowing whistles.
Unlike drum-based East African dance styles, the Mbende/Jerusarema does not rely on intricate foot stamping or many drummers. Instead, the music is performed by one master drummer, and no songs or lyrics are involved. A rich material culture, including drums, clappers, whistles and costumes, is associated with the dance.
In the course of the dance, men often crouch while jerking both arms and vigorously kicking the ground with the right leg in imitation of a burrowing mole. The dance’s curious name reveals much about its vicissitudes over the centuries. Before colonial rule, this ancient fertility dance was called Mbende, the Shona word for “mole”, which was regarded as a symbol of fertility, sexuality and family.
“Mordenisdation has killed our culture and I won’t rest until every child in this community is fully educated about it,” said Nemabvute.