Clive Malunga

2011: Annus Horribilis for Jenaguru

The main purpose of Jenaguru Arts Centre is to search for and discover talented artists especially those who major in traditional music and dance. Our mandate is to scout for talent in Zimbabwe. Due to financial constraints, our efforts are restricted to areas in and around Harare. Once identified, the artists are nurtured and given exposure to local and international audiences. This week I am going to tell you about the most disgusting events which happened during Jenaguru’s tour of Japan in 2011.

2011 was a horrible year for Jenaguru Music and Dance Group because of what happened at the World Music Day (WOMAD) festival in Japan. It was a great achievement to be invited to perform at such a prestigious global festival. We recruited an excellent mbira player and a ngoma maestro both from Mufakose Township. Mr Clemence Mangwiro joined our group as a mbira player while Mr Andrew Lejara joined as a professional ngoma player. These two were already very good artists whose skills needed wider exposure.  Those two seasoned musicians were to accompany Jenaguru Music and Dance Group comprising of young primary school children.

We thoroughly prepared for the tour. Our rehearsals were done at Jenaguru Arts Centre once per week during mid-term and twice per week during school holidays. Then we left Zimbabwe on a marathon tour that took us to the Southern and Northern cities of Hokkaido and Akita prefectures. Our last performance was at a grand festival, WOMAD 2011, in Hakodate City where we shared the main stage with big musical groups from China, USA, UK, South Korea, Australia, Kenya, Senegal and New Zealand.  There were more than 20 performances concurrently happening at different locations.  Jenaguru was given the highest honour of performing at the main stage at 10 pm Japan time. The young boys and girls rose to the occasion.  The performance was unique in the sense that we showcased what we know best, our traditional dances. It was a performance to remember for Jenaguru Arts Centre.

All artists from different countries were accommodated at one massive complex which had eight floors. Our group opted to stay in the third floor.  Each floor was allocated according to the needs and wants of each musical group.  Each floor was manned by 4 to 6 festival managers. In our third floor we had one beautiful young lady who was our direct floor manager.  Whatever we wanted: food, drink and information about our next performance she would provide. 

The day after our main stage performance we were scheduled to perform at another smaller stage with other international artists (fringe festival performance). As I relaxed in my beautiful room waiting for the time to go downstairs and board a shuttle bus to the performance venue, I was startled by a not-so-gentle knock on my door. I immediately opened the door and admitted three ladies who shocked me with allegations that Mangwiro and Lejara wanted to rape our young floor manager. They alleged, she was saved by her loud scream which was heard by other musicians who were in other floors who immediately came and rescued her. You can imagine the shame and humiliation that visited us that day! Personally, it looked like the world had collapsed on me. When the lady managers were narrating the incident, I kept telling myself that it could not be true. I thought I was having a nightmare that I would soon wake up from. Unfortunately, it turned out to be true. 

Jenaguru managing director, Mrs. Tomoko Takahashi begged the complainant to stop filing charges with the police. A police report would damage Jenaguru’s reputation in Japan. We pleaded with the complainant and festival directors not to drag Jenaguru and the accused to court. The festival directors felt sorry for our managing director because it was going to destroy her reputation as an arts manager.

The organisers of the festival kicked us out of the accommodation.  We had to book some rooms at a nearby hotel. We had to pay hotel and food bills including transport to the performance venue. We lost the appetite to carry on with our performances, hence we struggled to fulfill our contract.  We sneaked out of Hakodate City without the festival organisers giving us a friendly send off. We decided not to visit Hakodate City for 10 years.

The 2011 Japanese tour was ridden with many disappointments from the start to end. The age group of the children we had taken for the cultural exchange tour was 10-12 years. Only one boy, Tatenda Tawanda was twelve years old. Wendy madhiko, Mary Tinarwo (not her real name) and Tichafara Makomborero were all ten years old.

Our first performance was a disaster because Tichafara started crying when we were in the middle of our performance.  He stopped dancing saying something was biting his face. We had to stop performing for a couple of minutes while the school doctor was attending to Tichafara’s problem. Tichafara could not continue with the performance that day.

The second performance at another school witnessed an incident similar to the first when Tatenda started crying when he was in the middle of performance saying something was biting his face. Tatenda could not continue with the performance at that particular school.

Our third performance was in Otaru City. We sailed by a ferry called Shin Nihonkai from Maizuru Harbour. It takes 24 hours from Maizuru City to Otaru City. We performed once on the Ferry and we got many favours from company management.  We got a free buffet for each member, business class rooms for all members and free accommodation in Otaru City at their company apartment.  We were provided with rooms as follows; young boys were in one room, young girls in one room, and the adults were given a room each. At around midnight Wendy Madhiko, one of the young dancers, came and violently knocked on my door, crying and saying a big fish wanted to eat her. She had seen that in her dream.  She claimed that Mary  was trying to make her brain come out. The dream was scary for a 10-year-old.

The next day I requested for a separate room for Wendy. That night we didn’t have problems with any of the kids. What also surprised us all was that Mary didn’t want to see fish or image of fish. She would run away scared to death.

The third performance had another casualty on stage. This time it was Wendy crying on stage saying she has been bitten on her face by something we could not see.  These incidents disturbed our performances a lot.

As we progressed with our tour, we discovered that it was only three children who were continuously affected and not Mary. We started suspecting her. The affected children would each morning tell some horror dreams. I became worried for the safety of innocent children who were having a terrible time in Japan.  One day after I decided to stop Mary from performing, the next day Wendy woke up with a seriously swollen knee.  I then confronted Mary and told her to stop the wicked things she was doing. After that discussion, Wendy performed without any problem in Sapporo City.

Mary apologized and confessed about having an urge to go out at midnight. She told us that at home her mother would many times prevent her from going out at midnight. I felt very sorry for the little girl. We at first thought of sending   her back to Zimbabwe but dropped the idea after considering the cost of sending her unaccompanied. We settled for stopping her from all performances until the last one at the World Music Day Festival (WOMAD).

When I arrived at the Harare International Airport, I told Mary’s mother about her daughter’s confession to us. She never sought to deny it. All she could say was, “Ichokwadi kumusha kwababa vacho kunoshinhwa.” I took that as an admission.