INDIA – Well-travelled Hwamanda Dance Troupe made a spectacular debut performance at the Manipur Sangai Festival this weekend.
Clad in traditional black, white, yellow and green attire, it performed Jerusarema-Mbende and Madane dances to perfection at one of India’s biggest cultural events.
Their energy-sapping, well-choreographed and scintillating performance won many new fans in the Bheigyachandra Open Air Theatre.
Though many fans here were blown away by Hwamanda’s performance, there were some who were a bit uncomfortable with the sexually suggestive elements of the Jerusarema-Mbende dance.
Hwamanda Dance Group
But on the whole the dance group that hails from the suburb of Mufakose in Harare was worthy ambassadors of Zimbabwe.
Mbende-Jerusarema is a distinctive Shona dance accompanied by drums and hand clapping; it is usually performed at celebrations, funerals and other social gatherings such as weddings especially in Shona communities in Zimbabwe.
The dance was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage for Humanity by Unesco in 2005.
Prior to the Manipur Sangai Festival, the 13-member group had performed during the opening day of another two-day festival held in Ahmedabad in Gujarat last week, courtesy of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and the Indian embassy in Harare.
Hwamanda, which has previously toured China, Denmark, Sweden, Egypt, Seychelles, Algeria, Japan, the United Kingdom, Zambia and South Africa, is delighted with the way the Indian tour, which is being led by ZTA official Tesa Chakaponya, is panning out.
“We are delighted to be part of this cultural exchange programme. The response from the audience has been awesome wherever we showcased our dances.
“Jerusarema-Mbende is an initiation dance while Madane involves acrobatics and it portrayed Zimbabweans as strong people,” the group’s manager Linnot Laimbo told the Daily News on Sunday, adding that his group was honoured to have participated in the Manipur Sangai Festival.
The internationally-acclaimed festival, now in its eighth edition, is held about 2 000km from the capital Delhi.
The festival was named after an endangered brow-antlered deer endemic to Manipur.
This year’s edition of the event was held in various places including Imphal and Bishnupur districts so as to promote tourist attraction centres such as “the only in the world” floating National Park.
The festival was officially inaugurated by Indian President Ram Nath Kovind who cut the ceremonial ribbon to mark the symbolic opening of the festival before hundreds of dignitaries.
Kovind hailed the festival as one of the best platforms to showcase cultural diversity and richness of Manipur.
“The food and culture, adventure sports and crafts handlooms and universally-admired dance forms of Manipur cannot find a more appropriate setting,” he said.
One of the major highlights of the festival was the Lakeview Cultural Show held at a platform constructed on Loktak Lake.
Loktak Lake — one of India’s largest fresh water bodies in the north east — is the home to the Keibul Lamjao National Park.
The Lakeview Cultural Show was a fascinating combination of indigenous dance and music along with spectacular laser shows and screen projections in the pristine setting of the Loktak Lake.
The show was centred on the theme of fishing culture of the residents of Manipur.
During the festival, Manipur’s distinct dance called Ras Leela was an integral part of the festival alongside other indigenous dance forms including Kabui Naga, Lai Haraoba, Khamba Thoibi dances.