Colonialism did not only rob Africa of its labour and material resources but more importantly its cultural, mental and emotional being. Unfortunately, effort to revitalize native culture in Africa have been scant since independence and native cultural values continue to sink into oblivion as cultural emperialism relentlessly gobbles its artistic and socio-lingistic pillars.
Mafumhe Secondary school teacher, Phillip Kusasa of Bangira village under Chief Musikavanhu in Chipinge district have taken it upon himself to rescue his native cultural attributes.
Born in 1974 in Bangira village, kusasa is the main man behind the Ndau Festival of the Arts (NdaFA), a trust made up of 17 trustees, formed in 2013 to convene annual sessions in which talents and traditional arts are groomed and exhibited. He is also the founder of Paiyapo Arts Development and Heritage Centre found in Bangira Village.
Since its inception 2013, NdaFA has improved in leaps and bounds to an extent of attracting global attention. Phillip had a chance to attend an international workshop on creative climate leadership in Wales in 2017. Phillip also participated in an international film documentary that was showcased at the just ended COP26 which was held in Glasgow, Scotland.
In 2017 Phillip’s great work was also recognised at national level. He was nominated among the hundred ‘great Zimbabweans’, a program meant to celebrate community builders.
Kusasa real deserves all these honorary gestures considering what he is doing on the ground. Tapping from his explanation NdaFA has been doing a lot to revive various aspects of the Ndau culture since it was found.
“Since 2013 NdaFA has been standing tall in activities that are meant to celebrate Ndau culture . Through our annual festivals we have seen local dances, crafts, folktales, traditional foods and herbs exhibited for both locals and other cultural consumers from other cultures”.
Kusasa says love for his culture inspired him to craft the NdaFA project to revive the native culture which was gradually being eroded by modernity.
“After realizing how much the Ndau ethnic group was losing grip of its cultural values, kusasa Phillip crafted the concept. In fact, Ndau culture was almost swept into the drains, so through passion, I had to set an organization that would push forward for the preservation of Ndau culture”, he says.
As Kusasa explains NdaFA revives native culture by publicizing and boosting public confidence in it to negate corrosive effects of globalization, modernisation and cultural imperialism : “Modern cultures almost bribed the indigenes to lose confidence in their own beliefs. The modern cultures seem to promise things deemed better than what the Indigenes could. So the birth of NdaFA was in a way an attempt to redefine and reaffirm the existence of Ndau people and their cultural practices in a world that has very little information about them”
Kusasa says NdaFA is also meant to correct misinformation spearheaded by those championing the hegemony of modernity: “NdaFA has one major goal that is to give the world a window into who the Ndau people are. Ndau people have been misunderstood and misrepresented, so NdaFA has carried the burden to demystify some perceptions the world has been forced to take about the Ndau people”
As well appreciated by Kusasa the hegemony of modernity makes use of the pen to destroy tradition for modernity and so Kusass argues the same must be used to rebuild native culture.
“African culture has been demonized by the pen and paper and any creative genre like films. So it is up to Africa to utilize the same artistic prowess to redefine themselves”, Kusasa says
NdaFA is so robust that it is prepared for all schemes against native cultural values including epistemological campaigns. In fact Kusasa says writing and rewriting the cultural story of the Ndau is their major call.
“Our major call is to document our cultural treasure for the benefit of the contemporary communities and posterity. Also, the damage which was done by some writers who were a bit negative about the indigenous Ndau communities needs to be reversed, however, that damage can only be reversed if the Ndau people commit themselves to serious research”, he explains.
Though NdaFA is committed to achieve its goal of cultural revivalism Kusasa says the burden may be too heavy for NdaFA without the support of community members: “Ndau festival of the Arts as a trust has taken the cross and they are convinced that if the local people work in unison some aspects of Ndau culture will be reclaimed and revitalized”
One may be tempted to believe NDAFA is a tribalistic organisation since it emphasizes on Ndau cultural revival but Kusasa pours cold water on that arguing NdaFA embraces cultural diversity and co-existance.
“Though NdaFA emerged to make Ndau culture visible, it embraces cultural diversity. We celebrate co-existence as a moral barometer. We therefore feel it health to mix and mingle with other cultural groups”, Kusasa enthused.
He went on to say their tolerance to cultural diversity is testified by their annual festivals in which they invite all natives despite their cultural background given that they will be also tolerant to diversity: “For example at our annual festivals we invite participants from all corners of the world. We yearn for social and cultural interactions so that we can build citizens who can understand each other, of course without denigrating anyone because of their cultural background”
Kusasa says natives have got a role to raise their cultural flags in global forums to sell their rich cultural attributes: “Native as we are, we need to reach to the whole globe and show the world the richness of our culture”.
Although cultural revivalism is the central pivot of NdaFA business it goes further to try and use these native cultural values to deal with real life challenges faced by the local, national and global community. Zimbabwe has been facing economic difficulties since the dawn of the 21st century and with the rest of the world it is also affected by global warming. Kusasa says NdaFA commits itself to seek solutions to these challenges from cultural vantage point.
As he explains the organisation is inspired to harness native art, cultural activities and creative talent to address economic challenges bedeviling the local community and the nation at large.
“Culture is an economic pillar, so reinforcing our Ndau cultural activities, in a way is a call for economic Empowerment. It is NdaFA’s mandate therefore to put together all local creative expressions into a local data base so that whoever is inspired to take creative industries a little further would have a springboard”, says Kusasa.
On environmental challenges like climate change Kusasa says our culture embedds philophies designed to conserve the environment and so avoid consequences related to environmental degradation. This implies that NdaFA can join hands with the rest of the world in trying to mitigate global warming by reviving and publicising those native cultural philosophies inspired to conserve the environment.
“NdaFA works on environment care and climate change. In fact we have realised that the concept on environment is not strange. Our past is pregnant with philosophies that address environment and climate change”, Kusasa explains.
Some indigenous organisation like some African apostolic churches discourage their children from attending school arguing modern education plays a pivotal role in undermining our ‘ubuntu’ values since its curriculum is predominantly a colonial legacy. However, NdaFA has chosen to use the same system of education to promote native culture by launching educational campaigns among the youths to promote native skills in creative art. Kusasa says their organisation has a project stationed at a local primary school (Nyaututu) which imparts creative skills linked to Ndau cultural dances to local children.
Being not hostile to merdenity where it does not denigrate local cultural values NdaFA appreciate good ideas that came with modernity and at times use them as torchlight to achieve its goals. The idea of equality and inclusivity is one principle of operation adopted from modernity used by NdaFA in its creative skills imparting project.
“We also embrace inclusivity especially in our imparting of creative skills. Recently we have involved both boys and girls in our skill transferring project at Nyaututu Primary School. We also feel that we should extend our borders to incorporate people with disabilities no wonder we finally reached out to Big Tree Primary School to empower children with physical challenges with creative skills”, said Kusasa.
Commenting from the progress made so far, kusasa says NdaFA has managed to change global attitude to native African culture adding that better is still yet to come.
“From my experience so far ,I can see a very bright future where Africa will gain respect in cultural circles. African dances and African wisdom literature are beginning to be respected at some international platforms. Some international cultural research organizations are coming to Africa to find the truth about Africa so that they can refill the gaps”, kusasa explains.
Finally Kusasa encouraged cultural researchers to come to Africa and target pockets of untapped African cultural treasurers and wisdom for documentation arguing that would augment global economic development.
“The world without information about such African Indigenous groups will be incomplete. So from my observation and experience, I’m seeing Africa being a cultural destination for it shelters very new and untapped cultural treasures that would even boost the global economy if the global citizens commit their resources to tapping such raw and authentic African culture that has for centuries been demonized”, he says.