The Sunday News
Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
IN Africa music and dance plays a very important role to preserve culture, relay history and maintain a certain identity.
Every African is proud of his or her cultural identity and preserving it at all costs. Dance and music are often used during happy times or sombre moments in most African set ups, especially in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has many different ethnical groups dotted in various places countrywide. One such ethnic group is the Shangani, located mostly in the southern parts of the country in places such is as Chiredzi, Manicaland and Beitbridge.
Since time immemorial the Shangani have been identified through the type of traditional clothes they wear for dance or other cultural activities. Xibelani is a popular dance and attire which differentiates them from other ethnical groups. The Xibelani dance is an indigenous dance of the Tsonga or Shangaan women mostly.
In general terms, the word “xibelani” typically refers to the dance style while the skirt itself is referred to as “tinguvu”, however, the term “xibelani” is sometimes used to refer to both the dance and the skirt.
When one drives for 135km east of Beitbridge town, they come across the Shangani at Tshikwalakwala who have been working tirelessly to preserve their history, ethos and cultural values.
“This is a dance where women play going around in a circle (wriggling waists), it shows our unity in maintaining our Shangani culture. The term xibelani refers to the dance but it has become associated with clothes worn by the female dancers.
“Infact, xibelani has become our eternal identity as the Shangani people, whether those from Mozambique, Zimbabwe or South Africa. All the ethnical groups can easily identify the Shangani with the xibelani (skirt) especially when it is properly worn. Children start training from any age but mostly around 12 years. This is done to ensure that we continue preserving our identity and culture,” said Mrs Jestina Hlongwane, one of the senior women involved in preserving the Shangani culture at Tshikwalakwala.
She said the dance moves which involves wriggling one’s waist was taught at household level and initiation schools. She said the dances differ with events which include, weddings, cultural celebration and sombre moments.
Mrs Hlongwani said though they were settled with many other ethnical groups they ensure that the dance and dressing is maintained at all their gatherings to preserve their identity.
She said the dance was attracting a lot of interest from many people and that they were working very hard in ensuring that all females in their area go through the dance and cultural trainings. Only time will tell for how long the Shangani with preserve their identity with xibelani.