POPULAR Bulawayo-based dance ensemble Ezimnyama are this year’s champions after they ruled the roost at the national finals of the annual Chibuku Neshamwari Traditional Dance Festival held on Saturday at Rimuka Stadium in Kadoma.
BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
The 17-member group once again proved they are a force to reckon with after shrugging off stiff competition from nine other provincial representatives to emerge the ultimate winners of the grand prize of $15 000 plus a floating trophy.
This is the second time Ezimnyama settled for top position after they outshined other groups two years ago at the same festival when it was held in their own backyard, at Bulawayo’s White City Stadium, in 2017.
On Saturday, the group showcased a well-choreographed Tswana traditional dance, called Setapa that originates from Botswana, but also found locally in Matabeleland South.
The dance routine, which is characterised by whistles and fancy footwork, charmed the judges to accord the group 409 marks out of a possible 500.
Mashonaland West province’s representatives Budiriro Arts ensemble, who came second with 366 marks, will receive $10 000, while third-placed Totambengoma, who represented Harare got 363 marks and will get $5 000 on top of their silver and bronze medals, respectively.
At the festival, the competing groups showcased a diverse range of themes through native and different dances that include Dinhe, Chinyambera, Zambia Nyau, Mbakumba, Nsumbule, Ben Arinoti, Mbende and Jiti that was a marvel to watch for the guests and thousands of unpaying merrymakers.
In an interview with NewsDay Life & Style on the sidelines of the festival, Ezimnyama dance ensemble founder and artistic director, Phibion Ncube said hard work was the magic behind their victory.
“We feel honoured to be once again crowned Chibuku Neshamwari Traditional Dance Festival national finals winners. What contributed towards our win is hard work and dedication because we knew that if we did serious rehearsals, we would produce something of quality and our creativity contributed a lot,” he said.
“As Ezimnyama, we don’t just perform dances from the region, we go across the board. What we did was to go and research deep down in Botswana for this Setapa dance. I want to encourage my other colleagues to do more research, working on customs and creativity. You can only win the competition by working hard.”
On their monetary prize, Ncube said while they would share some of it, their major priority would be to channel it towards developmental projects.
“We are looking forward to going places around the world showcasing our cultures. It’s not like we are only going to be doing dances here in Zimbabwe. No, we need to spread our wings and network with other arts institutions across the globe,” he said.
“Vision and discipline have seen us going strong and be intact since inception. What we normally do as Ezimnyama is that we nurture the talent and also promote it. We live through this thing as we do performances around the country.”
Ncube said parents should not suppress their children’s talents, especially those with interest in arts, but instead, support and help them to achieve their goals.
In separate addresses at the event, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe deputy director Josiah Kusena and the Zimbabwe National Traditional Dancers’ Association president Kennedy Kachuruka applauded the festival partners for continuously running the event, saying Delta Beverages was doing a good job in promoting culture in Zimbabwe through such a festival.
Meanwhile, sungura ace Alick Macheso, backed by his Orchestra Mberikwazvo, spiced up the festival as a guest performer, with a top drawer performance.
Although the Madhawu hitmaker took long to join his band members on stage than expected, he however, rewarded the tolerant merrymakers with a splendid performance that was worth the wait.
His playlist comprised both his latest and old hits, which have moulded him to be the respected music icon he is today, both on the local and international stages.
Chibuku Neshamwari Traditional Dance Festival is a long-running empowerment programme sponsored by Delta Beverages through their Chibuku brand and co-ordinated by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe in partnership with the Zimbabwe Traditional Dance Association.