Harare — Chedonje Primary School was the toast on Saturday after it came tops at the Jikinya Dance Festival, beating nine schools from other provinces in a contest that showcases various traditional dances by primary school pupils.
There was jubilation and wild cheers when Chedonje was announced the winner of the grand prize of US$1 500 at a colourful event held at the 7 Arts Theatre that saw guest performances by Gamboli, a primary school from Botswana.
The Mashonaland West Primary School performed Dinhe, a ceremonial dance that originates from the Korekore people and is popular during bumper harvests.
The second placed Dombodzvuku from Murehwa in Mashonaland East walked away with US$1 000 ahead of Matande from Masvingo that took home US$750.
Matande performed a dance called Matendera, another type of ceremonial dance which draws its name from the sound produced by two drums similar to the singing of a ground hornbill (dendera).
The dance is also performed when people are celebrating good harvests while Dombodzvuku's Mhande dance is normally performed at rain making ceremonies, weddings or even funerals. The dance originates from Masvingo and Midlands provinces.
Chifamba Primary School from Guruve pulled a surprise when it came fourth in a contest that was rich in both quality and appeal.
The school pocketed a cool US$500 and a miniature shield like the rest of the winning schools.
The other schools that took part in the national finals are Sihlengeni from Umzingwane that performed Idlamu dance, ZRP Tomlinson (Mhande), Mupeza from Buhera South, the only group that performed Jaka, a baboon dance which is in essence an imitation of how a baboon walks, steals from the fields and mates.
It is a dance that originates from the Maungwe people in the Makoni area of Manicaland.
Matebeleland North was represented by Mhlabagubo, a Tsholotsho school that performed the popular Isitshikitsha, a social celebratory dance that is usually performed by women at weddings and funeral wakes.
Mbizo Primary School that comes from Khami in Bulawayo also performed Isitshikitsha.
Speaking at the event, Dr Thokozile Chitepo, the chairperson of the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe board said the festival was unique as it celebrated the new dispensation in the country.
"What a way of showing inclusiveness than enjoying our very own traditional dance together as one people, one nation, dance that strongly express our Ubuntu/hunhu that characterises us as a country," she said.
"We are also happy that we are celebrating together with our brothers and sisters from Botswana. The scintillating performances that you all have seen bears testimony of a culture so rich, so diverse and that distinguishes us from the rest of the world."
Dr Chitepo emphasised the need to preserve the dance saying the Jikinya Dance Festival was central to promoting culture.
"Driven by the need to pass down traditions, values, norms and beliefs, the Jikinya Dance Festival is targeted at primary school children who are the future custodians of our culture.
"Because of urbanisation and acculturation this rich heritage is in danger of disappearing hence the need to revitalise and promote dance forms in Zimbabwe. It is against this background that Jikinya Dance Festival has become a permanent feature of the country's artistic and cultural calendar," she said.
The Jikinya Dance Festival was inaugurated in 2002 with the aim of encouraging children to perform ad appreciate Zimbabwean traditional dances thereby preserving its rich heritage.
This year's festival was held under the theme: "Building Zimbabwe Through Traditional Dance".
The festival is run by the NACZ in partnership with the Culture Fund Trust of Zimbabwe, European Union and National Association for Primary Heads as well as Delta Corporation as its major sponsors.
Among the guests were European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe Xavier Marchal, Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, NACZ director Elvas Mari, Farai Mpfunya, the executive director of the Culture Fund Trust of Zimbabwe and George Mutendadzamera, the corporate executive of Delta Corporation among others.