BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
The usually serene pictures of Fungai village in Goromonzi North, are disturbed as some members from the popular Ngoma Dzepasi Mbende Dance group begin rehearsals on a Saturday afternoon.
The humming sound of the drums can be heard from as far as Mukombami business centre, some kilometres from the village.
To many in the area, it has become a routine and they hope that one day government and other stakeholders would chip in and support these cultural and heritage preservation efforts by the artists.
Alfred Chiyangwa (45), the group leader, is on the dance floor as he exhibited his Mbende dance skills, while talented Farai Jambwa, a long serving member is playing the huge four traditional drums.
To spice up the rehearsal is Togarepi Vambe who is on the shakers.
But Chiyangwa, popularly known as Mambo Mukuvapasi, has a dream which if it comes true, his homestead will become the most sought after arts centre and at least the biggest home of Jerusarema/Mbende within a rural set up in the country.
“It is a dream that should come true. I want to turn this place into something big. This is the home of Jerusarema/Mbende dance. The concept here is interesting, a lot of activities will take place in this village,”said Chiyangwa.
Ngoma Dzepasi is a multi-award winning Jerusarema/Mbende traditional dance group that recently represented Zimbabwe in India during an arts festival.
The Standard Style recently visited Fungai Village and established that work has already started despite operating on a paltry to no budget.
The entrance into the proposed centre is made up of stone work that forms a roundabout to allow the smooth flow of traffic in and out of the centre. In a bid to avoid an influx of vehicles inside, a car park has been set outside.
On the northern side is where a big stage is set to be constructed.
The centre boasts of Dare, where Mambo Mukuvapasi and other elderly villagers advise young boys and train them into adulthood.
On the eastern side are lavishly growing indigenous trees that provide shade to revellers and young artists.
The artist is currently constructing two fish ponds with some of the land being reserved for the erection of chalets and a bar for mature patrons.
“We are operating on zero budget, Some of the work here is being done manually while some is funded by the little we get. It is good to dream big and will stop at nothing until Dzimwe RaGutu is fully established. I am confident that one day this arts centre will be home to thousands of young people.
“In India, we learnt a lot about turning art into serious business. We are trying to turn our art expertise into tourism promotion but this can only be achieved if we get financial partners or simply funders,” he said.
This paper also witnessed an architect hired to come up with designs for the area.
Mambo Mukuvapasi’s manager Thulani Chipunza who is also running around seeking funding, said the Dzimwe RaGutu Arts centre will be done in three phases and if funds are available, they will need at least four years to erect all the structures.
“The project will be done in three phases. For example, the first phase will cost US$75 000 that is the construction of a modern village, the construction of an ancient village and the water system. Currently, we have no money, we are using some from our pockets and this will slow the whole process. If we get funds, the art centre will undoubtedly be the best in Africa. We need to modernise creative arts,” he said.
According to the budget seen by this paper, phase two will consist of dance studio construction, erection of chalets, installation of a solar system and the construction of a modern village.
Also to be constructed in other phases include a museum, Dzimwe Inn and Café, Culture Shop, administration block and performance stage among other structures.
The whole project costs a total of US$990 000.
Despite the huge monetary figures, Mambo Mukuvapasi believes the gods will smile at him one day.
“I had this concept in mind for some time. In 2011 I was given a go ahead by the traditional leaders in this community to establish Dzimwe RaGutu Arts Centre at a nearby hill. We worked on the hill but after some years, we were told to vacate as someone claims he had discovered gold deposits. But that was not it.
“I could have shelved the idea but art runs in me. I am happy that my family has agreed to release some land for us. We are ready to move to every office and ensure that this dream comes true. I believe this centre will assist thousands if not millions of children from across who will be trained traditional dance among other cultural activities here,” he said.
Ngoma Dzepasi was born in Goromonzi about a decade ago.
The young artistes started performing the Jerusarema dance at Juru Growth Point, where they were paid in kind with sadza or little money.
Despite the harsh economic conditions, the group persevered and registered to take part in the Chibuku Neshamwari dance competitions.
Due to their hard work, they won the national finals held in Bulawayo in 2014.
Ngoma Dzepasi became a household name in Mashonaland East Province and they were honoured by the local traditional leadership who applaud the group for preserving traditional dance and culture.
The group has groomed thousands of youngsters through training Jerusarema Mbende in schools across the country including in urban areas.
Ngoma Dzepasi also boast of four afro fusion music albums that are laden with scintillating Jerusarema/Mbende drum beats on some of the songs.
“The budget might seem to be big but this is a massive project that will play its part in promoting culture tourism hence contributing to the country’s GDP,” said Chipunza.
As the sun sets, the drum beats die away as group members leave the stage. Indeed darkness is jealousy. If the construction of Dzimwe RaGutu is implemented, who knows, maybe rehearsals and performances will be done overnight under the floodlights with guests and arts lovers enjoying traditional food from Dzimwe Inn.
From Goromonzi villages to Rainbow Towers performing at corporates, to Hariana Province in India representing the country, the sky could be the only limit for this outfit as they venture on a new journey.