African Cultural Music Festival honours traditional dance and history
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By Sipho Mabaso
The Zindala Zombili African Music & Dance Festival will livestream today, Saturday 27 March from 7pm - 9pm.
The high-energy 2-hour show will feature highlights of the last two months since the series of African dance events began, including the groups selected from provincial elimination rounds, as well as the best traditional music & dance groups from all over South Africa.
The organisers, Zindala Zombili Productions (ZZP) in partnership with the African Cultural Heritage Trust (ACHT) which is an NGO that grew out of the Indlamu Cultural Association founded by Dr. Sipho Sithole as a vehicle to launch a national collective to conserve indigenous culture, say they had to stream the event due to the Covid-19 regulations meant to stem the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic which has claimed the lives of more than fifty-thousand South Africans since its advent in February 2020. The first debuted in 1984 at the Jabulani Amphitheatre in Soweto, Johannesburg.
Sithole said the festival has already made great strides to install a deeper understanding of indigenous cultures in South Africa, that “for these cultures to interact and learn from each other, by sharing a stage, the performers and audience realize that we are all Africans and our similarities far outweigh our minor differences”.
“The festival always showcases the best indigenous traditional music & dance from all provinces, and includes an educational aspect, such as school workshops for approx 2,000 kids, but due to Covid, everything has had to go online this year,” said Sithole.
Sithole, who has been the director of the festival since its inception, said quality control is crucial “to ensure that all proceedings remain authentic and true to the cultural art forms and groups that participate” to ensure all cultures are accorded the appropriate honour of respectability in all aspects of the festival.
The National Department of Arts & Culture, which has supported the festival with a financial injection of R1 million, is the main funder, while other provinces, such as the Gauteng & North West departments of sport, arts, culture and recreation, as well as the Mmabana Centre, according to Sithole, “added extra budget to involve more groups in their provinces”.
The objective of the funding is to distribute as much financial support as possible to cultural dance groups, choreographers and technical assistants, as possible. Each qualifying group receives a R10000 grant to enable their participation in the festival, and in Gauteng and North West, the provincial governments add additional funds of up to R50000 for their groups. Sithole said other provinces claim they do not have funds to contribute, but do, nonetheless, assist with logistics, such as catering and transport.
Sithole said, “More than 60% of all participants are women. They are the nurturers, the holders of our culture and are deeply respected in all aspects of the festival and operations, as has always been the case in Africa. In traditional culture, women were highly respected, and no man made any decision without full consultation with his wife. Modern life has distorted the deep respect for women that is embedded in African culture. Again it is the colonialists that have always sought to divide & rule!”
Festival participant groups are 100% black and inter-generational, so as to pass on the embedded Indigenous knowledge systems from generation to generation,” said Sithole.
Sithole said, “No” there are participant groups within the festival who were involved in the Presidential Employment Stimulus Package (PESP) overspending debacle in which the National Arts Council (NAC) is presently embroiled, and involves some artists who were over-funded by the NAC, hence its current inability to disburse funds to legitimate applicants timeously. Artists have staged a sit-in at the offices of the NAC in protest. Sithole is the Acting chairperson of the NAC.
“We are shocked that indigenous culture gets so little money compared to other art forms. Funders say there is not enough to go around, but that is because they are overpaying their friends. The multiple grants associated with Arthur and Chomee are testimony to that,” said Sithole.
He said the festival “makes people take pride and begin to embrace the richness of African culture and how it is a tool to address social ill, remember who we are”.
The festival will stream on Youtube