Female group resuscitates culture


ONE of Bulawayo’s oldest traditional groups Thandanani Women’s Ensemble, has vowed to protect flickering culture through their hybrid traditional performances.


The Tshabalala-based group which was formed 22 years ago by daring women — most of them now above 50 years — is renowned for isitshikitsha/whosana dance synonymous with Kalanga/Ndebele cultures.

While most arts groups have at the turn of the millennium moved with the tide fusing contemporary and traditional genrés in a bid to attract international audiences, the all-female group has stood the test of time as it continues to perform ancient traditional dances.

And fortunately, the group is getting better with time like wine as it continues to charm audiences each time it gets on stage.

But for elderly women who should be busy with family business one wonders how they balance their time and without being rebuked by their husbands.

Ellen Mlangeni who is the spokesperson of the group said: “We can go for nine years and our husbands would agree.”

“Our families understand that we have chosen arts and culture to communicate to society hence they have accepted over time. Even our husbands understand our business,” she said.

Despite most of the women having grey hair — a natural indicator of old age — they dance energetically like youngsters.

“We eat traditional food so that we remain fit and strong,” Yengiwe Mthelo Ngwenya, one of the group members, told Southern Eye Lifestyle.

“Unfortunately these young artistes do dances that are too energetic that by the time they reach our age they will be unfit to dance.”

Asked about the group’s source of inspiration Mlangeni said: “We are driven by the urge to safeguard our culture.

“We want to safeguard the Ndebele and Kalanga cultures among others hence we make performances in Ndebele, Kalanga, Tswana and sometimes Shona.”

The award-winning female group is becoming increasingly popular especially in local schools where the women teach arts and culture.

Thandanani Women’s Ensemble members featured in a short film titled Something Nice from London last year.

The group will once more feature in an upcoming short play Moonlight Cross which is on the cards.