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December 18, 2009
"Chipo, you have
a rare talent as a dancer. One talent was given to the third servant
and he buried it. A talent has been given to you, Chipo, at this
wonderful time of giving, Christmas. Do not bury it."
This is the Pastor, admiring
the beautiful performance that the young girl, Chipo, has presented
to the congregation in the church on Christmas Street. It carries
a powerful message for all, parents and children alike. The Pastor
reminds his congregation that the ability to sing and dance, act
and write are gifts from God and these gifts should be cherished,
nurtured and helped to flourish.
This was one of the scenes
and one of the Christmas messages that the annual CHIPAWO Christmas
Show presented on Saturday at the Zimbabwe College of Music.
Every year since 1995
the CHIPAWO community has presented a Christmas Show with a difference.
This year's show was called "Christmas Street" and was
based on the goings-on in a typical street in the high-density suburbs
(or 'townships') of Harare on Christmas Day..
The Christmas Show of
CHIPAWO not only aims to provide an entertaining and enjoyable Christmas
experience for its family audience, it also tries to do this by
presenting the Christmas material with a difference - a Zimbabwean
difference. Christmas and its stories are presented in an African
and Zimbabwean idiom.
For CHIPAWO this is a
very important responsibility - to ensure that Zimbabwean children
do not accustom themselves to always looking up to foreign models
and idioms but instead relate to international and national events
like Christmas in their own languages and in the context of their
The show is always filmed
and then screened on ZTV the following year on Christmas Day and
Boxing Day. This year there will be a screening of last year's show,
'Sindile', which is a Zimbabwean adaptation of the well-known fairy
story, 'Cinderella', at 2 pm on Christmas Day and then again at
1.15pm on Boxing Day.
The annual CHIPAWO Christmas
Show provides a treat for the Zimbabwean family. It is a time when
the whole family can celebrate the Spirit of Christmas together
with Zimbabwean stories, scenes, songs and dances. In this year's
performance nearly 200 children took part, All of whom have been
trained in music, dance and acting at the various CHIPAWO arts education
centres scattered over Harare, Chitungwiza, Norton and Bindura.
So the power of performance on stage is breathtaking because of
the numbers involved and brilliant because of the training that
the young performers have had.
This year's show began
with a short marimba overture in which snatches of carols and Zimbabwean
Christmas songs are played. Then the children burst onto the stage
with song and dance as the numbers swell until to the astonishment
of the audience, all two hundred of the children are there, belting
it out - from the layitis (infants) to the youth.
After this the Spirit
of Christmas appears. This is a tradition that in every show the
Spirit of Christmas appears. She acts as a sort of MC and a chorus,
introducing the items and commenting on what is happening. She also
intervenes in the story to help children who are unhappy or excluded
during Christmas and makes sure their dreams come true.
She explains that this
is not only a children's show but a children's show in Africa. Then
follows a traditional dance sequence, featuring mhande, isitshikitsha
The audience is then
ready for the play itself. On stage are three colourful looking
houses and three dustbins mark their yards. In front of that is
the street - Christmas Street. As the audience watches the street
on Christmas Day begins to come to life with all the usual characters
and goings-on that can be found on that day in Mbare, Mufakose and
other high-density suburbs. There are gossips, people drinking and
dancing, people from church singing carols and exhorting others
to go to church. Some boys are kicking a ball and youths playing
the 'Money Game'. Father Christmas makes an appearance and people
have their photo taken with him as he gives sweets to the children.
The highlight of the
morning is the church service, followed in the afternoon by the
Youth Bash, where it is the turn of modern dance to shine as the
youth give a brilliantly co-ordinated and synchronised display.
Finally, all the children bounce onto stage and deliver the characteristic
Finale of carols and Christmas songs in Shona and English, bringing
down the roof in the process, and with the audience invited to join
in and the children going into the audience to dance and sing, it
all ends in a joyous Christmas celebration.
The idea of Zimbabwean
children celebrating Christmas with their families in the Zimbabwean
way in one that CHIPAWO would like to see spread. CHIPAWO hopes
that the Children's Christmas Show will become a national event
and that other cities, like Bulawayo, Masvingo and Mutare will take
up the idea and have their own Zimbabwean celebrations of Christmas
by Zimbabwean children for Zimbabwean families. In case anyone thinks
this is chauvinism, it should be said that experience has shown
that visitors to Zimbabwe and foreigners always appreciate something
done in the local style.
show was directed by Chipo Basopo, with traditional dance choreographed
by Enock Majeza and marimba and steel band by Clency Gwaze, with
many others giving a helping hand.
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