YOUTH, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister Kirsty Coventry says the country has hidden gems that must be unearthed, polished and showcased to the world. The former swimming gold medalist made the remarks on Twitter as she posted a video of pupils dressed in national flag colours dancing to the popular Mbende-Jerusarema at Murewa Arts Centre.

Mbende-Jerusarema is a popular dance style practiced by the Zezuru people living in the Murewa and Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe districts in north-eastern Zimbabwe.

“Art keeps our culture alive, and these children at Murehwa Arts Centre are leading by example. We have hidden gems throughout Zimbabwe that must be unearthed, polished and shown to the world #MbendeJerusarema,” she said.

The Mbende-Jerusarema dance was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008, but was originally proclaimed in 2005.

The dance is characterised by sensual and acrobatic movements by women in unison with men, driven by a single poly-rhythmic drummer accompanied by men playing woodblock clappers and women hand clapping, yelling and blowing whistles.

Unlike other drum-based East African dance styles, Mbende-Jerusarema does not rely on intricate foot stamping or many drummers. Instead, the music is performed by one master drummer, and no songs or lyrics are involved.

The success story of the groups from the province is attributed to the numerous programmes being conducted to promote the cultural dance.

The Mbende-Jerusarema festival that is held annually in Murewa has contributed much to the birth of a number of serious dance groups from the province.

The decorated swimmer-cum-minister is, however, under fire from the creative industry amid claims that she has failed to live up to expectation of robustly transforming the arts and culture sector.

When she was appointed minister by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2017, there was a lot of anticipation, particularly from the long-neglected arts and culture sector.

Among the expectations under the new dispensation were that the government was going to pay attention to the sector and create an enabling environment to make the sector operate along business lines and become profitable.

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