BULAWAYO – Renowned historian Pathisa Nyathi says the Amagugu International Heritage Centre resulted from a dream he had a decade ago.
Amagugu situated 60km along the Bulawayo-Kezi road, which Nyathi founded in 2010, organises a variety of cultural, educational and recreational programmes for the public to learn and appreciate different facets of indigenous heritage, history and culture.
Nyathi established Amagugu after a dream he believed was from his ancestors.
“I started building from about 2000 when I was still a teacher and then a secondary school headmaster. I got broke. I still remember very well that I had a dream that said young man I see you are broke but this centre shall grow,” said the famed historian.
The Amagugu founder credited poet-cum-musician Albert Nyathi for linking him up with someone who helped him revive his dream of creating the heritage centre when all appeared lost.
“Eight years later we were in Harare attending a Culture Fund workshop. Albert, some lady and some gentlemen who I think is late now were outside the workshop venue.
“Albert then said Mdala do you remember what you told me about eight years ago. This is the person you said told you about the heritage centre in your dream. All the lady did after that was to inject $500 into the project,” he explained.
The lady who helped the Amagugu founder was Nomusa Ngwenya who ran Ezweni Real Estate.
According to Nyathi that was the first and last time he met her.
“She disappeared but since then everything started happening and somehow I started getting the money to put up the structures. We started with a perimeter wall and we are still continuing to build,” said Nyathi.
The Amagugu founder told the Daily News on Sunday that he recently applied for more land from the rural district council in order to accommodate more activities.
“There is also an urgent need for accommodation as many researchers and tourists are currently being forced to put up more huts at the centre,” he said.
The prominent historian is building Amagugu in partnership with his son Butholezwe.
“Fortunately, we have a son who is hooked on to the idea, who understands ICTs. I have the cultural content but he transmits the content and that’s how we complement each other.
“We work with surrounding communities that make crafts and bring them here to sell on their behalf and they get something. Normally, when we do our exhibitions it will be the community people who will be showcasing their traditional stuff,” said Nyathi.
Amagugu hosts various activities that include craft making, pottery, skin-tanning, wood-carving, iron work, basketry and stone sculpture.
The heritage centre also does a wide range of participatory cultural activities such as rubbing sticks to make fire, fetching water from a well, grounding sorghum grain on stones and using pestle and mortar, cooking sadza, setting snares, fencing, beer-brewing, sorghum-threshing and floor preparation.
Last weekend, the centre held its inaugural Traditional Food and Beverages Expo that attracted hundreds.
The event provided local farmers the chance to showcase a variety of traditional foods.
Nyathi said the expo was the first of its kind in Zimbabwe.
“It was the first in Zimbabwe which focuses solely on traditional African foods and beverages. It includes the preparation of these African dishes. It is a small start but in future we want to see the whole preparation of these foods done here rather than bringing finished foods,” he said.
The heritage centre is keen to make the event an annual one that will bring together cultures from all of Zimbabwe’s provinces.
Amagugu has lately been working on a rural arts policy reform research in four Matabeleland districts under a project titled “Strengthening Local Cultural Policy in Zimbabwe.”
Thanks to the project, Amagugu has become the only beneficiary on the African continent of $100 000 from the International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) run by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
Amagugu is among six beneficiaries from around the world selected in line with the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.
“Let us have a rural cultural policy that is what we applied for from IFCD. We want to (determine) the status of the arts and culture in these districts. Fascinating stories are coming out. We are about to finish in the four districts we are doing.”
Nyathi said they want to influence policy through the research.
“We want to say this is the actual status to concerned ministries and say can we do something. We also hope to convince rural district councils to take on board arts and culture because we believe these are important drivers of development,” he said.