Schools battle for honours at Jikinya Dance Fest

Jikinya is a dance

ARTS industry mother body, National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (NACZ) has expressed satisfaction with the level of competition exhibited by primary schools at the Jikinya Dance Festival’s provincial competitions ahead of Friday's grand finale.

Organised by NACZ in partnership with the National Association of Primary Heads (NAPH), the festival was inaugurated in 2001 to preserve traditional dances, especially among young Zimbabweans at primary school level.

Jikinya is a dance performed as an expression of happiness with lots of drumming, dancing and singing. The dance originated from the country’s north-eastern districts of Murewa and Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe.

Schools from the country’s 10 provinces will on Friday battle for honours at this year’s national finals set for Winery Hall in Gweru.

The festival, considered to be the biggest dance programme that involves over 5 000 primary schools across the country’s 10 provinces, makes a return this year after a two-year sabbatical due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The festival, which kicked off at the district, proceeding to provincial and finally the national level, is running under the theme: Building Zimbabwe through Dance, our Heritage is our Identity.

The road to national finals required schools to perform two dances as per the norm, although marks for the competition were awarded only for the common dance, amabhiza which was the compulsory dance for adjudication.

Amabhiza originates from Matabeleland South and was traditionally performed at rain-making ceremonies to appease the rainmakers’ spirits for a good harvest.

The dancers follow the steps of a horse accompanied by three drums, clapping and a whistle. The third small drum is a special drum that produces a squeaking sound, which is the signature sound of the performance.

The schools that have booked places to represent their respective provinces at the national finals are Lwendulu Primary School from Hwange, which will represent Matabeleland North province; Queen Elizabeth Primary School (Bulawayo); ZRP Support Unit Primary School (Harare); and Mtshabezi Primary School (Matabeleland South); Zamba Primary School (Manicaland); Chipindura Primary School (Mashonaland Central); Chitsungo Primary School (Mashonaland East); Munyaradzi Primary School (Mashonaland West); Madyangove Primary School (Masvingo) and Chiedza Primary School (Midlands).

“Preparations for the Jikinya Dance Festival national finals are in full swing with the local organising committee having already inspected the venue and currently putting up the required logistics for the hosting of the finals,” NACZ spokesperson Rodney Ruwende said.

He further noted that schools continue to take the festival seriously and have invested in the required time and materials in line with the objectives of the competition.

“Fireworks are expected at the finals as the first batch of provincial finals have shown a high level of preparedness by the schools with well-choreographed dances, immaculate costumes and a very high level of competitiveness,” he said.

“The Jikinya Dance Festival theme speaks to the importance of dance in showcasing who we are as Zimbabweans. This theme is appropriate for the return of jikinya as it calls on the nation to appreciate and perform Zimbabwean traditional dances, thus promoting, safeguarding and showcasing our cultural heritage.”

NAPH president Cynthia Khumalo recently urged parents and the corporate sector to support the festival saying it played an important role in safeguarding Zimbabwe’s heritage.

“Parents should understand that there is nothing evil or bad about their children participating in the competition. We have had instances whereby some parents prohibit their talented children from participating saying these dances are for evil spirits, yet these are the dances of our forefathers and ancestors and we should preserve them,” she noted.

The festival is credited for contributing to the rebirth of a national culture, identity and pride among Zimbabwean youths.

Over the years, Jikinya Dance Festival has nurtured talent in traditional music and dance by showcasing a variety of dance routines.

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