Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
IT’S been 37 years since the formation of Thandanani Women’s Ensemble and the group that was honoured this week for their contribution to the arts and culture fabric of Zimbabwe is extremely grateful.
During the Culture Week celebrations in Bulawayo on Wednesday, Thandanani Women’s Ensemble was given special recognition by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe.
The group’s members, most of whom are above 50 years have been toiling for years with their traditional dance moves and songs in a bid to preserve culture.
Popularly known as “Ogogo bamasiko”, the women specialise in dances such as isitshikitsha and whosana, dances which are synonymous with Kalanga/Ndebele cultures.
Watching these eight grannies of dance and song is a marvel especially when they are draped in traditional regalia, waving around reed brooms.
The group leader Florence Sithole (popularly known as MaTshabalala) said they were grateful that they had been recognised for their contribution in upholding culture in the country.
She said when the group was formed in 1982, the thrust was to impart the knowledge they received from their parents to the youths, something that has pushed them all along despite the economic hardships faced by most artistes in Zimbabwe.
“Throughout these years, what kept us going is the vision to showcase our traditions. Whatever problems that we faced, we didn’t take them to heart because we wanted to pass on the traditions that our mothers and forefathers taught us to the younger generation.
“We continue to do so until today,” said Sithole.
Part of the hardships the group has faced over the years is leadership wrangles with one of the members breaking away and forming Iluba Lemvelo in 2012. There were also accusations by the former leader Ellen Mlangeni that they elbowed her out of the group, but on Wednesday, she was part of the festivities. It seems all has been forgiven.
However, despite all these teething and growing problems, the group has won countless provincial awards such as the Chibuku Neshamwari traditional dance competition.
As part of efforts to promote continuity in the group, Thandanani which practices at Salukazi Arts Centre in Njube every week has for the past three years, been infusing young people in the group.
Sithole said it was great to see that people were now recognising the importance of culture and tradition.
“People haven’t been realising that culture and tradition is in every facet of their lives. But now, slowly but surely, they realise that they need the two in order to know who they are and to live in this world.
“Even the radio stations that have been set up, they’re really geared at resuscitating our culture.”