IN a carnival- styled “Zimbabwean Cultural Fiesta,” internationally renowned mbira artiste, Ambuya Stella Chiweshe, along with popular mbira ensemble Mbira Dzenharira and the emerging young “Were” will be performing tonight at Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton.
The Zimbabwe Cultural Fiesta commemorates Africa Day, under the theme Relinking Communities through Culture, born from the concept of “cultural inclusivity” in which there will be a welcome and celebration of all the extraordinary cultural diversity, origins and also African and other influences that make up Zimbabwean arts today.
Supported by Pamberi Trust, Chiweshe returns home for this and other performances, proudly carrying the torch out of the capital and into the outlying area of Norton, just 40km from the Harare CBD.
Fondly and respectfully addressed as Ambuya or Auntie, Chiweshe has held top ranking among mbira artistes and women artistes in particular, in an unstoppable music journey/career which has taken her to acclaim both at home and at international stages far beyond Zimbabwe’s borders.
“The theme itself, Relinking Communities through Culture, has really important issues at stake. Arts output nationally has become heavily concentrated in Harare (to where so many artistes have migrated). And yet the roots of many of Zimbabwe’s great musical innovations originated outside Harare – mbira, mbube, chimurenga styles and others have their roots far from cities and from diverse rural cultures,” said Pamberi Trust creative director Paul Brickhill.
He said a kind of cultural fragmentation had occurred, and it was now more difficult and less common for bands and music to truly emerge from small centres and make it big nationally as Devera Ngwena once did (from Gaths Mine, Mashava).
In the last three years, Chiweshe has been a spotlighted figure at Book Café, and one of the last mbira players to perform with the late young mbira star Chiwoniso Maraire before her untimely death in 2013, just after Ambuya Stella graced Pamberi Trust’s 2013 annual general meeting as guest of honour.
“There is need to rebuild cultural assets outside Harare where there are such rich and vital intangible cultural assets. This is about cultural decentralisation, cultural inclusivity and relinking diverse communities through culture” said Brickhill.
He described the relationship between Pakare Paye in Norton and Pamberi Trust in Harare as having been strong and productive for many years, with numerous artistic exchanges between the two platforms, including star performances by Tuku himself at Book Café.
While based in Germany for many years, Ambuya Stella spends much of her time in Zimbabwe, visiting each year to perform and participate in the arts.
The Africa Day theme and cultural activities have been devised in support of Zimbabwe Culture Week under the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe, and in Harare as part of the Harare International Carnival in co-operation with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.