This week we celebrate Zimbabwe Culture Week amidst a Corona Virus Disease COVID19 crisis which has clearly shifted the gains of any economy. Even amidst that crisis, we cannot forget to reflect upon many forms of art within our communities with Google Doodle celebrating with us our very own Mbira.
The Mbira is Zimbabwe’s well-established musical instrument among the Shona dating back at least the 16th Century giving that essential link between the world of the living and the world of the spirits. It has five types of instruments which are the matepe, ndimba, mbira dzevadzimu, njari and the mbira dzevaNdau.
The geographical location of these types vary with the concentration of matepe being Mashonaland Central, especially in Bindura, some parts of Mutoko and Mt Darwin.
Mbira dzevaNdau remains the instrument of the Ndau people in eastern Zimbabwe while the centre of popularity for the mbira dzevadzimu has moved over the past 100 years.
Mbira music was played both for entertainment and during special occasions, including weddings and installation of new chiefs. We can never forget the important role it played at special rain-asking ceremonies (mukwerera), memorial services (nyaradzo) and at times funerals.
It was used to contact both ancestors and tribal guardians, to give guidance on family and community matters and exert power over the weather and health.
The coming of the white man witnessed missionary groups promoting stereotypes of traditionalists and the mocking of mbira players as uneducated, lazy, beer drinking heathens. The exclusion of this instrument and many other African instruments when the white man came was so as to separate the black man from his religion and it was never heard of, to have the ngoma, mbira or any other instrument in the church services.
It is unfortunate that many who are still colonised still think of these instruments as evil and yet they celebrate our artistic nature, our true identity and who we are as a people.
By Margaret Kamba