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Back from Maputo: The Umoja Music Camp
CHIPAWO
November 27, 2009

In September Deon, Tinevimbo, Belinda and Charmaine, four members of the CHIPAWO Youth Programme, attended a 10-day Umoja Cultural Flying Carpet music camp in Maputo along with young artists from South Africa, Mozambique and Norway. CHIPAWO was represented by the Head of Programmes, Chipo Basopo, herself a participant of the camps in not so longer times. Another young artist, Thabiso, completed all the rehearsals and took part in the preview in Harare before the group left for Maputo but owing to problems with his ID was not able to get a passport and had to miss the boat. And judging from the comments of the young people after their return, it was a tragic loss for Thabiso.

The Umoja Cultural Flying Carpet is the initiative of Norwegian music teachers with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo. Its stated aims are:- the fostering of peace and development among nations through arts and culture, the support of art and culture and the development of arts institutions. The instrument that Umoja developed to achieve these goals was a rotating music camp, which young artists from the participating countries would attend. Action Teams were set up in each participating country to organise and implement programmes.

At the camp they perform for each other a national programme of music and dance and then start working in mixed groups to come up with various fusion or crossover performance items. The week culminates with a combined performance at which short versions of the national programme and the combined items are performed. Unfortunately since its inception the camp has never been in Zimbabwe, a sore point to the Zimbabweans of course.

But enough of me. Here is a bit of a digest of some of the things the young artists themselves wrote about their experiences in Maputo:

Belinda

It was an amazing experience. Since it was my first time to travel, everything was new and exciting to me, I had lots of fun and lots of new experiences

I have learnt several things from Umoja Flying Cultural Carpet, dances, songs, the culture of different countries and their lifestyles.

The main thing that was really helpful to most of us was being able to work together and creating an atmosphere of togetherness. I have realised that if people work together using different opinions and ideas they can come out with a great thing.

As youths we need to encourage each other to learn and know our culture because there is nothing to be ashamed of. We should be proud of the knowledge that we would acquire. Going into schools, especially secondary schools, showing them the cultures of different countries would make a huge and positive impact on the cultural perspective of youths.

Charmaine

We also had a performance in Campo do Zixaxa, dubbed "The Green Concert", where we had Mama Graca Machel (former wife of the late President of Frelimo and Mozambique, Samora Machel, and now married to Nelson Mandela) as the Guest of Honour. There was a great turnout from the residents of Zixaxa, both young and old, and they gave overwhelming support to the various performing Umoja students and loved everything we had to offer.

On the day of the final concert, the Franco Theatre (venue of the concert) was packed to the maximum and the audience offered overwhelming support, screaming and cheering for everyone. The climax of the concert was the drum piece presented by all Umoja students with fire-juggling and the four participating countries flags were raised.

Deon

(At Zixaxa) there were also performances from local groups in Mozambique and also some children who were being taught by the Mozambican Action Team (and they did) a marvellous performance.

The Umoja camp really helped me to improve my performing skills and it was such a nice experience. I am very proud of the way we performed and we really lifted our Zimbabwean flag high.

Tinevimbo

Our performance was very energetic and impressive. I was also impressed by the standard of the other three countries, in particular, Norway. The Norwegians brought another dimension to the camp as their culture of music and dance is very different from the African countries.

The cultural exchange programme that took place was also very educative as it mixed the four different countries and produced unique music and dance routines. The cultural exchange programme also helped me as an artist to better my skills in playing musical instruments like our very own marimba.

The Umoja Cultural Flying Carpet also upgraded my socialising skills as I have now made friends with everyone that was at the camp. I am also in touch with most of the people on Facebook.

This camp was the experience of a lifetime and I am very proud to have been a part of it.

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