The Sunday Mail
Stranger than Fiction
THE melodious sound of mbira cords, that were being sweetly played, pierced the blue sky.
Complementing these sweet melodies were equally pleasant sounds from rattles (hosho).
Bare-footed men and women, the majority of whom were dreadlocked, could be seen leaping into the air, unleashing a cloud of dust. Those in attendance did not seem to notice or care about the dust.
Women ululated as the men clapped their hands.
A rain-making ceremony, which was being led by the Nyamweda clan and the local community, was in progress at the sacred Nharira Hills.
A range of five hillocks, Nharira Hills is located about 20 kilometres west of Harare near Norton.
In the early 1960s, Sekuru Botemupote Mushore, the late spirit medium and custodian of these sacred hills, settled here, igniting a bitter wrangle with the white commercial farmer who owned the piece of land on which the hills stand.
For as long as locals remember, the Nharira Hills have been synonymous with mysterious happenings.
In one strange incident which is very familiar with the locals, the white commercial farmer who owned Saffron Walden Farm, on which the Nharira Hills are located, woke up one day to discover that his thriving tobacco crop had been uprooted and neatly piled on the edge of the field.
This was after the farmer had chased away Sekuru Mushore and his aides from the rain-making shrine.
After recalling the spirit medium, it is said the tobacco crop mysteriously returned to its former condition.
Following this incident, the white commercial farmer never made further attempts to evict the spirit medium from his farm.
Instead, the farmer willingly donated beasts that were slaughtered during rain-making ceremonies.
Years later, Sekuru Mushore breathed his last. Up until this day, the circumstances surrounding his death are a source of intense rumours and speculation.
The exact date and place of the spirit medium’s burial remains a closely guarded secret.
Apart from being a burial ground for members of the Nyamweda clan and a national monument, Nharira Hills is an important rain-making shrine.
During the aforementioned rain-making ceremony, Israel Kawanzaruwa, the late spirit medium’s eldest son, took The Sunday Mail Society on a tour of this sacred shrine.
On display at the meeting place (dare) are traditional artefacts and ceremonial weapons such as knobkerries and spears.
An incomplete stone structure, which used to house the late spirit medium, is located in the middle of the escarpment. Three more huts, which we were told were used during the brewing of traditional beer, complete the set of permanent buildings.
The greatest mystery on the sacred hills are its underground tunnels. According to Kawanzaruwa, all the five hillocks are inter-connected by very wide tunnels.
It is widely believed that an underground tunnel links the Nharira Hills to the Chirorodziva Caves in Chinhoyi, some 118km away.
It is also believed that important artefacts and even some minerals are stored in some of these secret tunnels.
According to Kawanzaruwa, each hillock has a sacred rain-making tree, which mysteriously grows at the entrance of a cave, where the millet that is used to brew traditional beer is stored.
Lions, which are believed to be related to the supernatural world, are often seen roaming the hillocks. An island which is located on Lake Chivero, which Kawanzaruwa said is called Chitsuwa chaMaringapasi, is also believed to be sacred.
The Nharira Hills are also associated with an equally famous mbira group, Mbira dze-Nharira. The group, which has since split, was steeped in African tradition.
Based in nearby Norton, group members would appear on stage clad in traditional attire, leopard, zebra and buck skins.
On stage, some members of the group would go into a trance, heightening speculation that they were spirit mediums.
The group members, who admitted to having being inspired by the late Sekuru Mushore, wore dreadlocks, would appear on stage barefoot and also took traditional snuff.
They would call each other by their totems.
The majority of the well-educated group members gave up their respective careers to focus on traditional music. However, despite the historical importance, the Nharira Hills are under threat due to quarry operations at the hills.
“This year alone, five companies set up base at some of the major hills. As I speak, a sacred hill near Dzivarasekwa is being blasted for quarry,” Kawanzaruwa said.
Kawanzaruwa is unhappy with the way the mining companies are disregarding cultural values.
“Even before the land reform programme, white commercial farmers used to take part in traditional rain-making rituals. Although they could not be physically there, they would send their workers and offer beasts. But the business people coming here are only interested in exploiting our natural resources,” Kawanzaruwa narrated.
As the Nyamweda clan concluded the rain-making rituals, drops of rain fell in areas surrounding Nharira Hills and Norton.
Kawanzaruwa attributed the rains to the rain-making ceremony.
“You saw it for yourself. Spirit mediums are capable of communicating with the ancestors. They can make the rains fall,” Kawanzaruwa enthused.
Are spirit mediums capable of making rain?
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