BY TENDAI SAUTA
PAIYAPO Arts Development and Heritage Centre founder, Phillip Kusasa is on a drive to restore the Ndau people’s history and culture.
Kusasa founded the centre in 2011 in Bangira village under Chief Musikavanhu, Chipinge district, Manicaland province. The institution is at the heart of rural Chipinge dominated by Ndau-speaking indigenous people.
NewsDay Life & Style had the opportunity to talk to Kusasa.
Kusasa said he got interested in spearheading cultural activities after realising the negative impact of modern cultures on indigenous cultural values.
“Most people have been forced to believe that Ndau culture is uncivilised and can hardly inspire development, which is untrue. Ndau culture embeds some developmental facets; for example, its music and dance, poetry and theatre, crafts and art and its oral wisdom literature. If all these are woven and refined into creative art products like films, the world economies would be boosted. It is a matter of mindset or attitude that keeps such victims of colonial hangover stuck in such faulty worldview created by the colonisers,” said Kusasa.
Kusasa further emphasised: “In fact, Ndau culture like any other indigenous cultural groups, was threatened with extinction. So as an indigene, I assumed a social and cultural responsibility to carry the burden of redefining the worldview from a Ndau cultural perspective. I found it a moral obligation to reaffirm the existence of Ndau people and their belief systems through such projects.
“My call is not militant and rebellious to other global cultural beliefs, but I emerged to call for a cultural balance sheet that embraces cultural diversity. Ndau culture is also a culture that should be celebrated. Hence, the emergence of modernity has forced local cultures to shrink and assume second citizenry.”
Kusasa believes Paiyapo Arts Centre is set to revitalise Ndau culture and all its values that are developmental and nontoxic to both the socio and cultural health of the global village.
“Like any other cultural groups, the Ndau people must have a place in the global village. Without them the village is incomplete. So our advocacy has to do with Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation)’s call for cultural plurality. Despite colour and ethnicity every culture must be celebrated. So my belief is that if cultural rights are human rights, Ndau culture should rise and claim recognition and dignity,” Kusasa said.
He reckons Ndau people have been belittled due to their deep-rootedness in their culture. Modernity has demonised it, hence Kusasa’s emergence is a response to such an unfair denigration.
“Ndau people have a lot that they can offer to restore both the socio and economic health of the global village. For example, their soils are the best for production of healthy cultural foods that can offer the world food security. Also their indigenous forests if well tapped can be a source of the best herbal medicine. Remember the world is currently groaning from the pain of some impacts of climate change and if the world swallows its pride and consults Ndau philosophies regarding environmental ethics based on ancient knowledge systems, some remedies would be gained,” Kusasa said.
Since the International Conference on Culture for Southern Africa in 2021 several scholars and musicologists have taken serious strides in curating and publishing African culture. Similarly Kusasa has contributed a chapter on Ndau people in a book by Thomas Panganayi Todhlana and others on cultural restoration and repatriation set for a colourful launch at a venue yet to be announced in Manicaland.
“Our chapter focuses on the background and establishment of the Ndau Cultural Centre in Chipinge, the Paiyapo Arts Development Heritage centre. The chapter highlights the centre as a platform for resuscitation, revival and preservation of Ndau cultural activities which were dying a natural death due to lack of recognition, reconstruction and promotion,” he said.
“In short, therefore, the birth of our projects to restore Ndau culture was not by coincidence, but a result of refined thoughts. We emerged to restore Ndau culture hence reclaiming our pride and identity in a village which is so competitive that if we could take long to rise, we would become history,” he further explained.
Kusasa believes construction of resilient buildings helps in inspiring locals and foreign investors.
“Paiyapo Arts Development and Heritage Centre as an organisation is faced with a multitude of challenges. In fact, some people, who were brainwashed by colonialism and forced to shun local culture, are taking long to appreciate and celebrate our call. Most feel threatened that our project is a movement that would threaten their tables. So time and again they throw negative comments about our call to respect our culture which is a centre nerve towards development,” Kusasa added.
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