10 September 2002

Zimbabwe: Muchongoyo Dance Group Now a Pale Shadow of Itself

Harare — CHIHOO, a Muchongoyo dance group, which rocked shows in the 80s is now a pale shadow of itself.

The group was a common feature at almost every state function such as Independence Day celebrations, Heroes Day and Workers Day but now it is hardly known.

Chihoo a Shona word that describes zero tillage aptly sums up the operations of the group. Many of its members had no experience in dance when the group started.

The director of the group Enos Simango who is now in his 60s says he has seen it all and wants to develop and groom young dancers.

"As a director I feel I should give the young dancers a chance to do their own thing but without the financial support we are unable to do so," said Simango.

He said it was high time he took a back seat concentrate on the development of the dance to other parts of the country outside Chipinge area.

"As part of my contribution to the community I wish to take the dance to other parts of the country as well as form a Muchongoyo Dance Association," he said.

Talkmore Simango, his son, has taken over the reigns from him before the old man bows out.

Muchongoyo is a cultural dance that involves a lot of energy and stamina but on the whole demands creativity and innovation.

The stamina comes into play, as the dancer has to contend with the high speed and routine somersaulting that makes the dance different from Jerusarema and Mbakumba.

Although Jerusalem and Mbakumba have been popularised across the country the same cannot be said of Muchongoyo dance as Simango pointed out.

"There is need to nationalise the dance because it is one of the heritage and a way of separating the men from toddlers.

"It is one of our cultural heritage and like other dances should be appreciated by both the young and old, " he said.

Muchongoyo originates from Chipinge area and the dormitory surroundings such as the Sabi Valley and Mount Selinda and is synonymous with the Ndau people.

There are three types of Muchongoyo which include Muchongoyo Muemeso and that emanates from Chief Mutema's area, Muchongoyo Chingo-mana from Mt Selinda bordering with Mozambique and the Muchongoyo Dhambros a.k.a Tangi from the Sabi Valley region.

Trumpets, drums and whistles are used to cheer the dancers who wear special garments called Choba on shoulders and knees and short kilts around their waists.

Not only is Muchongoyo an entertaining jive but it was also used to measure the manhood of youths at chiefs' installation ceremonies.

And when there is a special appeasement ceremony, the dancers might go into a trance just like other traditional dances such as Mhande and Ngororombe.

With his undying love for the Muchongoyo, Simango is appealing to well wishers to sponsor his group to take Muchongoyo dance to greater heights.

He can be contacted on House number 612131 Glen Norah.

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