Musical institutions hail Umoja camp

Founder countries of this programme include Mozambique, South Africa and Norway.

Umoja, which means togetherness in Swahili, is a project that comes under the initiative of the Zimbabwe College of Music, Zimbabwe Association For Music Educators (ZAME), Children’s Performing Arts Workshop (CHIPAWO), Fredrikstad Culture School of Norway, Mozambique National Dance and Visual Art School and Johannesburg Music College.

These artistic groups from the region and the diaspora move from one country to the other in an effort to share their experiences and skills through musical workshops, performances and art exhibitions at various arts colleges.

These workshops have culminated into a number of evaluation concerts held in Maputo, Harare and Forde in Norway.

A representative of Umoja, Clayton Ndlovu, said the Umoja camp, which was recently held in Zimbabwe and in Mozambique last year, would move on to the other countries such as Namibia and Nigeria with a comprehensive spectrum of indigenous performing arts with arts education programmes.

Founded in 1984, students from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe have had the opportunity to visit various countries including Norway where they shared their artistic experiences.

Zimbabwean programme co-ordinator Munyaradzi Chatikobo says sharing various artistic skills can enhance the understanding of various cultures as it is fundamental to the development of a modern society.

Umoja Music Camp is a collaborative development programme that involves the participation of various cultural institutions.

ZAME secretary-general Okay Machisa applauded the hosting of various inter-cultural programmes in various countries as projects have already helped to develop artistic co-operation with other countries.

ZAME has been going on since 1993 and a good number of local traditional artistes have gone to other countries in an effort to share their musical experiences through the use of such traditional instruments mbira and marimba. Machisa said a good number of Zimbabwean mbira players, including the late Dumi Maraire, played ambassadorial roles in such countries as Norway with their mbira music.

NorZimba ‘ a group from Norway which was born out of the co-operation between Norway and ZAME ‘ was in the country earlier this year to perform at the Harare International Festival of the Arts, courtesy of ZAME. They play marimba, mbira (the thumb piano) and hosho (rattles and shakes).

ZAME is a music education project operating at an institutional level, where the focus is on stimulating and emphasising the role of culture and music in schools; and on an individual level, where pupils from the schools involved are recruited for group performances and to take part in tours in both countries. It also involves arts education workshops for teachers and educationalists from participating institutions in Norway and within Zimbabwe.

The co-operation within music education between Fredrikstad Culture School and ZAME has been going on since 1993. This started out with inviting music teachers from Zimbabwe to teach music to Norwegian children, introducing African instruments and, to Norwegian teachers, new teaching methods. One of the tangible results of the project, was the establishment of a girls’ marimba orchestra in Norway, and a boys’ guitar group specialising in adapting Zimbabwean music to classical guitars.

The project has further developed into wide co-operation involving the Fredrikstad Culture School, teachers, parents and pupils.

On the Zimbabwean side, the project has contributed to the recognition and promotion of traditional Zimbabwean music in schools, and recognition of “African teaching methods”.

The direct result of the project is the establishment ZAME. To date, the Fredrikstad Culture School co-ordinates 10 educational institutions in Norway, participating in the project. An idea and co-operation that started out very small, has grown and developed into a solid institutional partnership between Norway and Zimbabwe, and contributed to an increased recognition of the use of traditional music in Zimbabwean schools.

The Umoja camp offers participants an opportunity to develop and promote artistic skills and the artistic outcome of each year’s camp is then showcased through performances, workshops and exhibitions.

June 2006
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