1 June 2014

Zimbabwe: See Beyond Carnival Costumes to Appreciate Creativity


Carnivals have a poetic licence or special dispensation to conduct themselves in a way that may be ordinarily viewed as irregular. Dispensations on food and liquor uptake in public are just but examples.

The Brazilian Floats do not pass for obscene nudity beyond what we adorn in private and at our public swimming pools or beaches all over the world.

In fact, the Rio Carnival attracts in excess of

900 000 international tourists in addition to the participation of locals, the just-ended February 2014 edition having generated just under a billion dollars in income.

If we are going to succeed with future carnival editions in Zimbabwe, we have to develop a higher degree of tolerance for other people's cultures, otherwise the international endorsement that we seek from other countries for our events and destination will elude us. What is ironic is our accommodation of more suggestive and sexually provocative dances and stanzas by the likes of Bev and the Sexy Angels, Zoey etc.

These were clearly far more popular acts during this carnival than the Brazilian Samba Girls who performed less sexier and provocatively than expected.

Every year, we watch the Rio Carnival on our TVs and not on a single day have our critics come out. Our aversion for anything foreign smacks of the highest pretence in the face of the well-acclaimed and popular gyrations by our lovely women whenever they are called to perform before crowds.

Does the wearing of trousers, minis and other skimpy outfits by our beautiful women constitute Zimbabwean culture? Nhembe, migwada, mhapa and shashiko certainly do.

Who wears that stuff today except for the occasional cultural dances before VIPs at Airports and other grand occassions. If we stick to these dressing requirements, even our biodiversity will disappear overnight.

Let us not arrogate to ourselves the higher moral ground, which we actually don't occupy or pontificate on issues we actually don't comprehend.

This carnival was a product of hard work and serious benchmarking of successful carnivals, which include the Nigerian, Brazilian and the Seychelles carnivals by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry and others who made this second edition a success story.

Clearly, there are a few amongst us who are trying to seek relevance only now when they feel left out where they probably had bet failure, only to be confronted by the people's power: immense success.

We should also avoid turning national events into factional and personal theatres in this never-ending self-seeking posturing, and point scoring and attention seeking to the centre.

I applaud Chief Musarurwa for his intimate association with our activities and apologise for overlooking the Chiefs hierarchy in inviting their interest in this carnival, notwithstanding the proof in our offices of official overtures made to the President of the Chiefs Council to participate and officiate at some of the events.

Notable by their presence were Chiefs Gudo and Tshovani from Chiredzi, who clearly understand this culture from their unique Shangaani cultural festival that has become an annual transnational event involving the Shangaani people from Limpopo Province of South Africa.

By any measure, hundreds of thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans that turned out, thronged the street party, the excitement and cheer, and the call for more such carnivals in pursuit of Gross National Happiness, indicate that the event went down very well with the people, and for me, that is what counts -- the pursuit of happiness and enhancing the well-being of our people away from their recurrent challenges of unemployment, cash shortages and deprivation.

Is it not ironic that the theme of this carnival was "Celebrating our Diversity", and some amongst us 24 hours later, are unable to comprehend this.

Diversity has been used by our detractors in the past, and most recently in our political and economic emancipation efforts to spark divisionism, regionalism, fan tribalism and plant acrimony amongst us along race, colour, creed, religion, culture, politics, class etc.

This initiative seeks to galvanise national unity. In all fairness, it is prudent to give advice that people stop seeking relevance and tempering with the majority's endorsement of this carnival that hundreds of thousands turned out to enjoy -- and if you think I am joking, I dare anyone to a referendum on this matter, which you shall lose hands down!

Bravo to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry, our international visitors and our people for their peaceful and incident- free conduct and I look forward to an even more successful edition in 2015.

I hope then, the true Zimbabwean culture and dressing will be known.

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