The Machangana: Cultural Festival

Attending a festival from another culture is like putting that culture under a microscope – one often sees the fine and intricate components of that culture in vivid and vibrant detail. People all around the world love joining together and sharing a good time through festivals and celebrations. Festivals are great way to experience local culture. Sometimes they offer a glimpse into past. Built on their relationship with the Shangaan community, the Shangaan Festival provides a rewarding and educational experience. Held annually, this festival allows an opportunity for the Machangana people of the south-eastern lowveld of Zimbabwe to share their vibrant social culture through hut paintings.

The celebration coincides with the integral tradition of passing down of their culture to their youth through song and dance. A lot of exuberant dances are performed, such as Muchongoyo, Chokoto, Marula, Chinyambele and Chigubu. The men wearing grass, cowrie shell and porcupine quill headdresses and armbands. They are also often adorned with wild animal skins or goat skin skirts. To add to the music they wear gourd leg rattles. The women wear the traditional “Chibabela” skirts, with multiple strands of twisted beads wrapped around their hips and adorning their necks. Wire bracelets decorate their bare ankles.

The Shangaan Community in support with Chilo Gorge Safari Lodge hosts their annual Mahenye Cultural Festival with the aim to maintain and promote the traditions and culture. This festival aims to ensure that this heritage is passed on to future generations. A colourful informative morning is spent in the Mahenye village with visits to the Secondary School and clinic. This allows for an opportunity to explore an authentic village and watch village life in one of Zimbabwe’s remotest corners. After a picnic lunch, the festival begins. Become immersed in the Shangaan dances, songs, poetry and storytelling while marveling at the intricate dress and bead ware. This is an opportunity to admire local craftwork, wall decorations and traditional hunting methods in the village.

A Chibabela skirt is revealed beneath a loose wrap…

The Chibabela skirts are deeply gathered and beaded skirts, worn under bright wraps and displayed when dancing for special occasions. These skirts sway and flare out when dancing to create a mesmerising effect. They are made from traditional striped, woven “Salempore” fabric and glass seed beads. A strong tradition of using glass seed beads for decorating skirts and for necklaces is still maintained. Glass seed beads are treasured for decorating items of everyday use, such as snuff boxes and containers made from hollowed out wild gourds and squashes. Men and women wear earrings, but this is less common amongst the men these days. A kudu horn is treasured as a lead musical instrument, as are wood and skin drums. Musical wind and string instruments such as Tingoma, Chizembe, and Chitende are still made. Ladies enjoy the piercing sound of tin whistles to lead their dance troops. Cultural education and appreciation influence economic growth and advance a rewarding intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life of a people. Community development is a collaborative and facilitative process undertaken by the community that shares a common purpose of building capacity. This weekend long cultural event is known to present a learning experience for all. Many forms of dance, food, music, arts, clothes and languages are presented. The event attendees can expect quite an experience.

a typical square Changana home, with deep verandah and wall decorations …

Images provided by Lin Barrie

Copyright: Nzira Magazine Issue 13

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