Clive Malunga

A TYPICAL CULTURAL EXCHANGE TOUR


Before embarking on an international music and dance tour, Jenaguru conducts thorough
dance rehearsals under the tutelage of Mr. Exhibit Simango, who is a well-known dance
teacher in Zimbabwe. At times, Mr. Simango is assisted by Mr. Mputhumi Mandhla Hlazo and Mr. Aleck Bhokisi who are also accomplished dance teachers in their own right.


Typically, a day’s rehearsal session lasts four hours. The first three hours are dedicated to dances while the last one hour is for the group to learn to sing a few songs in Japanese and Korean. We also learn general etiquette rules in Japanese and Korean cultures, for example how to greet and how to say thank you. We try as much as possible to build confidence in children because in our tours many times the children will be the ones showcasing our
cultural dances to the foreign audiences. They will also be expected to explain the dances
and all the props that we carry such as mbira, tswanda, mbikiza, ngundu, tsvimbo, magavhu, chuma, ndarira, hwamanda, hosho and chipendani.


We have received a lot of assistance from The Culture Fund, an organisation led by Mr. Farai Mupfunya. The Culture Fund books us into a hotel (usually Cresta Lodge) before our departure, and pays our transport costs to the airport on the morning of our departure.Cresta Lodge would also prepare packed breakfast which we carry and consume while we are at the airport. The culture fund would also pay for lunch and dinner before departure. Parents of the children going on tour will also enjoy the lunch and dinner buffet. It will be a family outing at its best.


The Culture Fund makes sure that the whole group is well dressed in tracksuits, shirts and caps and have carrier bags all written “Zimbabwe ” at the back and front and, in small letters, “Jenaguru Arts Centre “. In all previous tours, our tracksuits were made by a reputable company called Faith Wear. The regalia was purpose-made and each year we would travel abroad wearing a different colour and design of a tracksuit courtesy of the Culture Fund.


On departure day, parents, siblings and relatives of the travelling children flock to theairport to bid them farewell. Some would be taking pictures and others will be praying for their children’s safe journey. From Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, we fly South African Airways to Oliver Tambo International Airport, a journey of one and half hours. After spending two hours in South Africa we connect to Cathy Pacific Airline for an incredible thirteen-hour flight to Hong Kong. We spend three hours in Hong Kong and then board Japan Airline for a three-hour final lag of our journey to Incheon International Airport, South Korea. Altogether, our long-haul journey to the first city where we will start performing takes an enervating twenty-three hours or more.

Before we begin performing in South Korea, we are given a little induction into Korean culture. The lessons include how to prepare and serve their traditional green tea. It’s quite interesting to know that each spoon and cup used in making the special beverage has its own special name. They also provide us with traditional Korean attire. From Incheon we travel to Seoul by luxury bus where we visit popular sites in the capital city before any performance.


Let me describe one tour we undertook for you to appreciate the kind of experiences children are exposed to whenever they go on cultural exchange tours.


After our performances in Seoul, we had a long drive to the city of Busan where we were treated to a presidential welcome. For most in our group, it was the first time we slept in a five-star hotel. Koreans made sure that we were comfortable and sufficiently fed. We had memorable performances there.


From Busan, we took a one-hour flight to Fukuoka International Airport, Japan. I’m so lavishly treated whenever I arrive in Japan that I now take Japan as my second home. In each Japanese city we visited we did more than four performances. From Fukuoka, we flew Sky Airline to Okinawa, a journey of 1 hour 45 minutes. Many Japanese friends and musicians gave us a resounding welcome. Okinawa is a very hot island and we were taken to the beach to swim and we had our lunch at the beach. From Okinawa we proceeded to Kobe, where at one time we experienced serious tremors.


We drove from Kobe to Nagoya, where our sound engineer, Mr. Tadaaki Nakamura stays. After performing in Nagoya, we boarded a bullet train to Tsuruga Harbour where we crossed to Otaru by ferry.


We also visited Hiroshima City. Hiroshima is well-known, the world over for the devastation caused by the atomic bomb dropped by America in 1945. We went to the site where the bomb was dropped and a guide explained exactly what happened. I, for one, was touched by what I heard. I realised how blessed any country on earth is if there is peace. We performed twice in Hiroshima.


We also visited Iwate Prefecture where we performed to victims of the catastrophic tsunami that had hit the nearby Fukushima prefecture. We heard sad stories of death, loss of property and displacement.


Jenaguru was invited to perform at a hospital in Sapporo. Research was being conducted to see if our energetic Zimbabwe dances can motivate those who will be seriously sick not to give up easily. The doctors said Zimbabwean dance could be a very good remedy for those who are giving up on life. The research is still ongoing.


A day before we departed for Zimbabwe, Otaru mayor and residents threw a big farewellparty. Many local kids joined Jenaguru Music and Dance Group. Our children showcasedtraditional Zimbabwean games such as pada, nhodo, chisveru and also played Japanese games like Janken, Kendama and Kenpa. The children exchanged contact phone numbers and addresses with their Japanese counterparts.


Before returning, we visited Tsukuba City where spacecraft is manufactured. We were shown how a spacecraft is made, how it operates, and the kind of clothes used by astronauts. We performed once in Tsukuba City. Our performances ended in the city of Hokkaido.


These international music and dance cultural exchange programmes build confidence inchildren. The children learn to speak and perform in front of crowds. They learn to be proud of their cultural heritage. They build socially beneficial networks with other kids which broaden their perspectives and teach them to tolerate other cultures.