The Herald (Harare)

24 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Cry Our Beloved Nambya Museum

The shattered windows stuffed with rotten cardboard boxes and Red Seal maize-meal plastic covers protect the precious Nambya historical artefacts in the Nambya Community Museum in Hwange.

The ramshackle building's doors are missing, leaving the rooms yawning to even uninvited guests - the troops of monkeys and baboons - that invade the property as they scatter, gather, chat and quarrel in their instinctive quest to survive.

On many occasions, naughty young lovers sneak out of their homes and use the museum as a love nest. The roof is the only permanent structure still firmly attached to the building although it is slowly falling apart as the heavy downpour is becoming a menace.

It is in this place where one gets to know more about the baNambya people and their history. This is where one is truly drawn back to what they call Kusha Kunene the home of the baNambya, albeit through the broken artefacts.

One can be forgiven for thinking that the history of the baNambya has effectively become as broken as the historical artefacts the eye can see.

Young people, schoolchildren and traditional elders come to visit this place just to feel the Nambya Community Museum as it is a place that truly reflects where the baNambya came from.

Despite the shattered glasses and open doors the museum is a place which tells a true unique story. The museum began operations in 2008 with the motive of educating members of the public on the roots and history of the baNambya.

"This museum is for the community of Hwange. It is to educate and conscientise the community on the baNambya as well as the African history," says Mr Herbert Siansole, the chairman of Nambya Community Museum.

"This place is where the Nambya history is showcased, the knowledge on how baNambya migrated from the Rozvi State to the current Hwange area. One also learns the traditional beliefs and norms of the baNambya," he said.

Maps of the Nambya movements to all three ruins - Shangano, Bumbusi and Nyala - are showcased in the place. A collection of traditional utensils like baskets, clay pots, water jugs, cooking sticks, traditional weapons like spears, axes, hoes, knobkerries as well as traditional musical instruments are also on exhibition.

The museum has literature on the baNambya culture and history. Mr Siansole said the museum also seeks to promote cultural and community tourism in tourism in Zimbabwe.

"Since the Hwange community is a multi-cultural society with cultural diversity, the role of the museum is to promote cultural tourism, everyone has to know our cultural values and norms," the chairman said.

Although the museum is under the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe there is a lot which needs to be done to upgrade the facility.

Mr Siansole said the National Museums and Monuments of Zimbabwe has helped the museum with roofing the structure and has promised to fund them in some areas which need their immediate attention.

Although little has been done to upgrade the building, elders in the Hwange community believe such structures should be kept and be upgraded as it is also another way of recognising and promoting the indigenous cultures which are slowly facing extinction.

"A lot needs to be done to protect this museum because it holds our lost pride as baNambya, it draws us back where we come from. As elders we ought to do everything to safeguard our monuments for the benefit of future generations," says Mrs Oliwe Dube, one of the elders from the community.

A number of activities are being done by various organisations to promote the indigenous languages and cultures, the baTonga and the baNambya set up a Nambya-Tonga committee with people from both Nambya and Tonga tribe.

The committee holds workshops which promote their culture and preserve their tradition while non-governmental organisations such as the Silveria House also carry out developmental workshops that promote the culture and encourage the Nambya and Tonga to reclaim their tradition and heritage as well.

The Nambya Community Museum is housed in what used to be the Hwange Colliery Sports Pavilion. It has transformed to be a symbol of the pride and joy of the Nambya community. It is in this place where one can get the feel of the Nambya language and culture.

Rutendo Mapfumo is a journalist based in Hwange.

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