World Arts West
SF Ethnic Dance Festival


Chinyakare Ensemble

Julia Tsitsi Chigamba
First Appearance in SF EDF:

Chinyakare Ensemble presents authentic Zimbabwean music and dance, and merges powerful traditional art forms with innovative movement and soulful form. Native Zimbabwean artist, dancer, and choreographer Julia Tsitsi Chigamba founded Tawanda MuChinyakare (“We Are in the Deep Traditions of Our Ancestors”) in 2000. The group welcomes all who seek healing and spiritual experience through dance and music.


Chinyakare2012 PERFORMANCE


2012 DANCERS: Ella Allard-Chigamba, Gerald Basa, Julia Tsitsi Chigamba, Kanukai Chigamba, Baindu
Conté-Coomber, Ronnie Daliyo, Abby Fritz, Delisa Nealy, Marsha Treadwell
Augusten Basa (drums, marimba), Cathy Crystal (hosho), Moeketse Boke Gibe (drums), Mohamed Lamine (marimba), Tom Melkonian (marimba), Melissa Cara Rigoli (hosho), Glenn Wilson (drums)

2011 DANCERS: Augusten Basa, Gerald Basa, Julia Tsitsi Chigamba, Kanukai Chigamba, Casey Daliyo, Ronnie Daliyo, Delisa Nealy, Marsha Treadwell
2011 MUSICIANS: Duncan Allard (marimba), Russell Landers (marimba), Hector Lugo (drums), Kelly Takunda, Orphan Martinez (drums), Tom Melkonian (marimba), Sara Noll (hosho)

Chinyakare Ensemble presents Mbakumba, a harvest celebration from the Karanga subgroup of the Shona people, who originate from the Masvingo Province in southeastern Zimbabwe. The choreography uses playful theater to tell an ancient story, a sort of AA meeting from the African bush. Baba Bigee neglects his harvesting, following celebrations around, drinking way too much beer. His loving family takes away his beer pot and warns him of the dangers of drink, so Baba sobers up.

Nyarara iwe, Nyarara ucha zviona . . .

It’s okay, everything will work out
Stop whining, you will see at the end
And please don’t feel ashamed
There are no problems too big or small for us to solve together

Mbakumba is noted for the jeketera, a polyrhythmic conversation between dancers and musicians. The story marks a time of rest and recovery after the harvest, when the community celebrates together. As Karangan philosophy says: “I am because we are”.

Choreographer Julia Tsitsi Chigamba is from a long line of Shona musicians, dancers, and storytellers who lived in poverty for decades under British rule—1800s to 1960s—protecting and carrying forward ancient Shona traditions. This performance is a poignant testimony to that lineage: Julia’s children dance with Chinyakare, having recently arrived from Zimbabwe where they performed with the Mhembero Dance Company and under the tutelage of ceremonial mbira master Tute Chigamba, Julia’s father.

Zimbabwean costumes evoke the earth: green is for crops, gold for minerals, black for peace, and red for energy. The women hold tswanda—baskets of seeds. The men’s clay pots (hari) carry ceremonial beer, ritually brewed, blessed by the matriarchs, shared in friendship.

The deep earthiness of Shona music “fills up” listeners and opens a space for the ancestors to join. The ngoma drum—a carved tree trunk and cow hide—carries the conversation with the dancers. Hosho (gourd shakers) and marimbas (introduced in Zimbabwe in 1960) play circular cross-rhythms.


Titles: Mhande, Hoso/Amabhiza
Artist in Residence:

Ronnie Daliyo
: Duncan Allard, Julia Tsitsi Chigamba, Ronnie Daliyo, Delisa Nealy, Marsha Treadwell
Duncan Allard (drums), Julia Tsitsi Chigamba (hosho), Ronnie Daliyo (drums/hosho), Russell Landers (drums), Hector Lugo (drums), Tom Melkonian (drums), Delisa Nealy (hosho), Marsha Treadwell (hosho)

Chinyakare presents two dances from the Shona and Ndebele:

is usually danced during the first rains, to celebrate the cycle of planting and harvesting and to invoke blessings for new endeavors. The women carry seeds in tswanda (baskets); the men's skins and headdresses evoke an earlier time.

Hoso/Amabhiza celebrates the Ndebele people's deliverance from British colonizers and their return to ancestral lands and traditions. Cloths symbolize cleansing, dance movements characterize colonialists on horseback, and the lyrics highlight the people's courage and ingenuity: they hide prayers and invocations to their ancestors in simple proverbs:

I don't like to have to dance
stay outside with my clothes
goods. Don't dance
stay outside.

Five drums—including the ngoma, a hollowed tree trunk—beat cross rhythms and circular patterns against magavu leg rattles and hosho gourd shakers. The powerful and earthy Zimbabwean music opens a space for ancestral spirits to enter, and the dancers pause for sacred communication.

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