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Artistic excellence can revive Byo

mathabelazitha/the anvil BY ZIFISO MASIYE

I do not quite remember what bible verse it is where some desperate woman, sinking in debt, pleads widowhood, absolute incapacity and helplessness and Elisha asks her what it is, in whatever form that she may have as her possession to save her offspring from capture and slavery.

“Except for a little oil and these hopeless old tins, Master, I own absolutely nothing of value in my life.” The Christian faith will excuse my scant grasp of the Word and my liberal indulgence in it. But in not so many words, I think the scripture says, the prophet advises the poor widow not to look any further
than her drop of oil and backyard tins for salvation.

“No one owes you an apology for your condition, woman! Pick yourself up, dust yourself down — pick them old tins and fill them with your little oil
(uyebangena) and make a life!”

The rest, they say, is history. Go ye and read your bible and get my drift. Did I just bump into multiple backyard tins and a drop of oil at the Bulawayo
Annual Arts (BAA) awards bash!

The story of tins happens to be my life’s perennial background soundtrack. My grandfather, Njisela Mathabelazitha, my childhood hero and inspiration, produced
miracle progeny throughout his humble life, straight out of scrap tins and his hammer, under a Musuma tree, back in Gwakwe village, Wilonki — hence The
Anvil. In the city, we grew up to see what tins can do in the lives and livelihoods of “amapostori” in our neighbourhoods, be it Njube or Magaba. We miss
most of them, for they shifted home, with time and tin, to Hillside and Gunhill, leaving us in our tinned shacks, “ekasi”. Today, the Chinese are back in our midst, as if to remind us of that biblical value of scrap metal. I have myself experienced the metaphorical miracle of hopeless, old backyard tins and a drop
of oil in my own life and need no further convincing of the inherent power of tins. These are days of our lives!

And so it is that I witnessed that verse (2 Kings 4) (now my trusted biblical anchor Brain Murandu corrects me ), I saw that verse unfolding right in front of
my bewildered eyes on Saturday June 29 in Hall 4, Zimbabwe International Trade Fair — the most beautiful, cold night this dark winter has delivered to the City
of Kings — an evening that literally matured into daylight of the following morning. The BAA awards.

All too often, the title “cry-babies”, like some shackled albatross, has hung with shameful pride on the necks of Mthwakazi. Though HIV/ Aids seems to have
shrugged off its stigma, the social, economic and political stigma that comes with being Matabele and Bulawayan, so often, to so many feels like some perenial
jinx and lifetime award of doom. Neither Enos Nkala nor Zanu’s most obedient sons could find that proverbial pool to wash off their ethnic curse of being
Ndebele.

All too often, our people have embraced their pity — party and carried the minority curse on their sleeve, as if it were some weird badge of honour. Make no
bones about it, our people have been bruised, bashed and abused — yet so much deeper, cuts the local brew of self-inflicted abuse of self- censorship, self-
doubt, self-pity, self-hate, an intra-community orphan-complex . . . that victim psyche and collective numbness that imprisons a troubled minority and robs a
people of their inherent ability to see and celebrate themselves and the beauty of their pain.

Busisa Moyo, a drop of Roil, an ensemble of multiple simple tins of “gqom”, a krafty choreography of the stones that the builder refused — was all it took, to
altogether change that downbeat Bulawayo narrative.

Give the man Bells!

There is something about our people. Something! (Usinga) Help me. A thing that can’t quite be captured by a pen. A spirit of sorts that can’t be subdued by
pain. A deeply embedded vibrancy, a defiant, exhilarating ethnic artistic brilliance . . . the stuff made in the realm of inspired spiritual ecstasy.

Now and then, that “idlozi” outs and manifests obviously, in say the phenomenal genius of one Peter Ndlovu, a Don Gumbo here, an Adam Madebe there or some Continueloving Mhlanga, but count on it, the salient genius is resident in the loins of every Matebele out there. Only waiting for some roil, to explode!

That distinct vavavoom, the electrifying warrior spirit of the City of Kings was not in short supply . . . nay, it was in abundant display the very minute the
BAA Dance Ensemble, replete with its unmistakable footprint of the iconic Mambazo hit the ramp in that awesome opening ceremony. If I was Mayor, that’s exactly
how I would welcome all visiting entourages into this great city.

Tourist dignitaries, investment conference, I would replace the opening prayer of all Stakeholder Indabas with that 10-minute invigorating exhibition of the conquering human spirit of the city. Far from being an add-on, the artists of Bulawayo continue to demonstrate by these shows, and to announce to council, if it has ears to hear and a vision for the future, that, for a city like ours, so steeped in history, culture, in tradition and art, artists are longer just aesthetic frolics and embellishments of business corporates and economy. No.

They are the business and the heartbeat of the City ecosystem and economy.

Respect

The evidence of excellence and commitment to detail that must have gone into the preparations from venue, décor, lighting effects, sound, stage work, overall ambience to the seamless sequencing of artist performers was impressive and indicative of the quality and corporate dignity organisers attached to the beautiful event. My wife’s heart was warm all night, but her stomping feet froze to ice in that ZITF coldroom! Yes, she reckons heaters were the only missing link.

Performances

I need a fresh, dedicated article to write about the stupendous artist performances at the BAA awards.

They reaffirmed what I have always known … that Bulawayo is the unrivalled Arts and Culture capital of the country: that if council invested less in everything else and more in reviving arts, sport and culture and theatre and creating and mainstreaming the arts and music and culture, this would be a most sustainable, organic launchpad of youth and community participation and an inclusive city development strategy; that there is no stopping Bulawayo if a robust tripartite commitment between city of Bulawayo, the Business community and Bulawayo artists is thought through, greed and executed.

Whether it was the delirious dynamite, Tebza, Zinja Ziyamluma, Desire Moyo, Sandra, the unparalled Skhonjwa or Mrs Sayers and all the night’s amazing winners, BAA torched a storm in my heart and left me ever more convinced that (ixoxo lexoxo liyazigxumela)… With the music and art Bulawayo shall rise again. Amhlophe Raisedon, Nku, Mambazo (“…singabanaki lababantu!”) Pick up the tins and fill them with the droplets of Roil and Bulawayo shall never again be the same.

Zii Masiye (ziimasiye@gmail.com) writes elsewhere on social media as Balancing Rocks.

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