THE European Union (EU) joined Zimbabwe in celebrating Culture Month at a culinary exchange event held at Amagugu International Cultural Centre at Nathisa in Matobo, Matabeleland South province, on Monday.

The EU has donated US$63 000 to the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) for the commemorations running under the theme Promoting Cultural Diversity, Unity and Peace.

Culture Month commemorations spearheaded by NACZ will run until May 31 as an extension of World Day of Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, which is celebrated on May 21.

The May 21 date was set aside by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity in 2001.

In attendance at the Matopo event were representatives from the Information ministry, villagers, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe executive director Nicholas Moyo and playwright Raisedon Baya.

At the event, two of the EU representatives William Wipoud and Jeffery Poilly showcased their culinary  skills as they cooked for the crowd.

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They treated them to pot-au-feu, which literally means pot on fire, a traditional French dish which became an instant hit with everyone.

“It is good to share and exchange as two vast continents. There is no better way to know people and their culture and identity besides cooking and eating with them in their homes. We also enjoyed eating umxhanxa and isamoni, among all the other dishes we tasted,” Poilly said.

One of the villagers, Nurse Malaba, who also showcased her culinary skills, said she wanted to have a kitchen where she could do business while teaching people.

“You see now we are feeding you amacimbi and sweet potatoes. All these foodstuffs help to build the body. Imagine if I had a place of my own to carry out these activities? I am daring and I am saying please give me a stand to build my own workspace here in Matobo,” she said.

Malaba came number two last year in a cookout competition conducted by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, but sadly, she confirmed that she had failed to collect her prize from the district development co-ordinator.

Renowned author and historian Phathisa Nyathi said he was excited about the success of the event.

“We were concerned that it was not going to come out well. We were told at a moment’s notice, surprisingly, everything has turned out well. The aim of this expo was to bring out our cuisine and take pride in it,” Nyathi said.

“That is very important, it’s a culinary art. They give us identity and teach them a language and heritage. It preserves our heritage and history of our ancestors for future generations.

“We are very grateful to everyone who came here today including members of the Press.”

NACZ spokesperson Rodney Ruwende urged stakeholders and arts practitioners to initiate events that celebrate Zimbabwean cultural diversity, unity and peace.

“Culture Month is an event that provides an opportunity to showcase, strengthen and promote the diversity of the Zimbabwean culture encompassing both the indigenous and contemporary traits,” Ruwende said.

“Culture Month 2023 is coming at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has been successfully contained, with the environment becoming friendlier for big events, hence stakeholders are called upon to craft events designed to attract physical participation in large numbers to showcase Zimbabwean cultural diversity.”

He added: “The Culture Month theme is part of efforts to bring about social cohesion and integration through arts and culture and enhancing the growth of the creative and cultural industries in line with the National Development Strategy 1 and Vision 2030.”

As part of the Culture Month programme, between May 22 and 23, there will be the Europe Day Arts Exhibition at Chitungwiza Arts Centre.

On May 27, President Emmerson Mnangagwa will launch the Culture Day in Binga.