Nama dance category elitist

THE local dance industry does not only have a vast pool of talent, but also boasts of infinite dance forms, which showcase the country’s diverse cultures.

Talk of Shangara, Dinhe, Mbakumba, Muchongoyo, Jerusarema, Mhande, Isitchikitsha, Amabhiza, Ingquza, Chinyambera, Ngungu and so on.

Armed with the aforesaid dance styles, a countless number of Zimbabweans have gone on to conquer the world and fascinate any race.

However, many have been left wondering why members of such traditional dance ensembles fail to make it to the National Arts Merit Awards nominees list.

This is despite them raising the country’s flag high and promoting the country internationally.

It appears like only the western influenced dance styles are recognised by the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe (Nacz), the organisers of Nama.

Contemporary dance has dominated the Nama dance category in the past years.

And selection of nominees has been limited to a few established dance organisations like the M and M Dance Factory, Tumbuka Dance Company, Dance Trust of Zimbabwe and IYASA.

It is difficult to remember when any hardcore traditional dance group or any of their members won the national award.

Dance groups that usually perform in night clubs have also grown in popularity. Think of Apama, Beverly Sibanda and Zoey Sifelani. Yet they are also snubbed locally despite getting foreign awards.

Accordingly, this has led pundits to question the adjudication system for this category.

Speaking in an interview, Zimbabwe National Traditional Dancers Association president Kennedy Kachuruka said there is clear bias in the dance category.

“We have extremely talented traditional dance groups in Zimbabwe but unfortunately, Nama adjudicators tend to favor modern contemporary dance, which is why it is difficult for our dancers to be nominated, let alone win,” said Kachuruka.“We have over 250 dance groups that are registered with us and an even larger number that is not registered. Are you telling me there is no single individual or group worth to get an award out of this lot?”

Kachuruka has no hope of turning the situation around.

“We have tried to ascertain why we are being left out and the response we get is that our members are not creative enough to bring in additives in their art. This tells you this is a losing battle. Traditional dance is more about preserving or culture and we do not need to taint our dance by incorporating foreign influences,” he said.

“A dance like Jerusarema is part and parcel of our culture and if we are to change it so that we have a chance of being considered for awards then we will in the long run end up killing our own heritage.”

Kachuruka suggested that Nama can come up with a separate award category for traditional dance.

In addition, the traditional dancers association is now considering hosting their own awards.

“We are going to be organising the Zimbabwe Dance Awards, which are not going to be limited to traditional dance but will be inclusive of other genres.

“We know that awards are important as they do not only encourage dancers to work harder, but also provide a platform for them to improve their visibility,” said Kachuruka.

However, this will not be a first.

The Dancers Association of Zimbabwe already has their own awards which honour excelling members of their association.

This year’s edition of the DAZ Awards is scheduled to be held at City Sports Bar in Harare on Wednesday, February 28.

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