The Sunday News
Sunday Life Reporter
THE township of Makokoba which sits just next to Bulawayo’s Central Business District was once a hodgepodge of culture, diversity and the creative arts.
And smack in the middle of Makokoba, it was at ‘‘Big Bhawa’’ that budding and established acts, cultural, social and political crusaders spent their time perfecting their various interests and crafts. This iconic beerhall was constructed in the 1950s by colonial Rhodesian Government to provide an escape for its black population which was not allowed past Lobengula Street or to drink in bars or pubs designated for whites and coloured folk.
In fact, at the time, blacks were only allowed to drink opaque beer which was sold at Big Bhawa. Fast forward to 2023 and the bar in question is under lease from the Bulawayo City Council to private players who have now added a ‘‘little something’’ to it in an effort to return it to its cultural and artistic heritage.
Under the stewardship of managers Themba Sibanda and Diana Mughoni, the bar which is run by entertainment company, Monecrew Supplies, has been going through an upgrade and the upgrade has resulted in the opening of Tshisa Nyama, a new entertainment spot within the Big Bhawa complex that is already turning into a very popular chill spot.
But for the entertainment company, the focus has been returning Big Bhawa as a whole to its former glory: an entertainment hub for all!
Since opening its doors to the public two Sundays back, the Tshisa Nyama has been gaining ground on its competition in and around the Makokoba and Mzilikazi environs with several patrons and residents expressing their excitement at the development.
The whole bar has been repainted while a borehole was drilled to provide a regular source of clean water. The borehole also provides safe water for free for the community. Work has also been done to renovate the hall within the bar which has a capacity of about 1 500 people.
“We plan to revive live shows and performances at Big Bhawa as was the case when it was first constructed to provide entertainment for the black citizenry of Bulawayo at the time. We are starting with a show by Insimbi Zezhwane on 9 December and then we have Clement Magwaza on 16 December. Our thrust and focus is to bring entrainment to eKasi,” Sibanda told Sunday Life.
Sipho Dube lives along 6th Street in the township and was one of the first bodies past the entrance towards the well-manicured lawns and seating area that protects patrons from the vagaries of the weather when doors were opened to the public.
And he was charmed all the way to Mazai River: “When they were renovating, many of us wondered what it is they were trying to do. Many of us thought to ourselves: this is Big Bhawa. What are these people trying to do? What do they think they can do? But when I walked through the gate when they opened two weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised at the set up and services that they were offering. All if it made sense when I saw what these people had been doing behind closed doors.”
Award-winning former Iyasa Dance Group member, Newman Godwe who is the co-founder of Asante Mo, an innovative arts group, said the opening of the Tshisa Nyama will provide a new platform for groups such as Asante Mo to express themselves through performances in front of their home-grown fans.
“As a group we are excited at the opening of this Tshisa Nyama. We are also very excited at the possibility if performing on stage there in front of our own home-grown crowds. Having grown up in Makokoba in seen the many creatives who came through my kasi and performed at Big Bhawa, I too want to add my name to that list,” Godwe told Sunday Life.