The Sunday News
Mthabisi Tshuma, Sunday Life Correspondent
AS Mzilikazi headed south fleeing King Tshaka’s army during the 18th century, he had to assemble a backup army and on the way he incorporated to the Ndebele kingdom — the Sotho, Tswana and Kalanga speaking people.
The Sotho speaking are a part of those left behind who later found solace and settled south of Gwanda. Thirty kilometres from the Gwanda-Beitbridge highway, lies the mining town’s “Redwood”, Ntepe Business Centre. From here, two routes emerge that lead to the village, Kafusi. One passes through the missionary school Manama High and the other via Gungwe which is home to late national hero, educationist Professor Makhurane.
With either route from Ntepe, 80 kilometres later lands one to the home of Bolamba Performing Arts group. As one reaches Kafusi, they are welcomed by the refreshed silence and embracement of the Sotho culture. Their brown teeth have raised questions in most circles and for the record it is because of the salty water they drink from a tender age.
By 2009, technological advancements had not yet reached the village associated with poor network coverage. With nothing to do for entertainment purposes, Bolamba Arts founding member Mthabisi Dube, by then a temporary teacher at Kafusi Secondary School went on to form the group with his workmates.
Speaking to Sunday Life, Dube recalls their bumpy decade long journey from the rural areas to the regional arts circle where they started off as a seven-member mbube outfit.
“We formed the group in 2009 Singamajida (as men only) with a colleague I worked with at the school and an Agritex officer for entertainment purposes. We were all about imbube by that time and performed at the school’s functions mostly,” he recalls.
During the late 2000’s Green Horse bus which went on a daily routine from the City of Kings and Queens to Alphant, was the only mode of transport one could use to reach the not so popular area.
With no established market for the Bolamba group, Dube went on to study nursing in 2011 with the group folding for three years. Coming back from his training in 2014 his passion led to resurrection of the rural-based group.
“When I came back from the nursing course I saw it fit to revive the group so that my village counterparts can have something to do in life,” he says.
Bolamba Performing Arts came with a new style of the traditional dances and started to perform at schools around the district. They made their debut appearance at the 2014 Chibuku Neshamwari provincial dance competitions were they took position two.
Since then, they have not looked back. They have grown to be a 16 -member traditional outfit with nine males and seven women with some throwing in the towel along the way which has not been all that rosy.
Three of the group members are civil servants with the rest taking the arts group as a day job.
“To tell the truth, it has not been easy from where we came from. A lot of people that we started with have had to part ways with us. If you have a vision, you do not surrender easily. I have always stood firm in growing the brand and this has kept the group at its best level. Our performances which have seen us winning here and there have motivated to the group.
“Those that are full time in rehearsing and performing know the reason for our success,” Dube says.
The soft spoken Bolamba Performing Arts group director says to land a gig, as an arts group situated at a rural area with corrugated road network was not that easy in the past.
“It has been a challenging encounter throughout the way with getting shows not going quite well. Our award nominations and achievements have come to the rescue as we are starting to get recognition nationwide and even outside the country,” he says.
The group will perform at the Babirwa Arts Festival to be held at the end of May in Bobonong in Botswana and thereafter head to Limpopo (South Africa) for the Mapungubwe Arts Festival scheduled for August.
The Bolamba Performing Arts dream is to appear on the international music scene and they are calling on sponsors to make the wish a reality.