“Nobuntu” is a Zimbabwean concept that values humbleness, love, unity and family from a woman’s perspective, and is the name of the first all-female Mbube group. They performed at the University of Nevada, Reno, on Tuesday, Nov. 6, at the Nightingale Concert Hall, after being invited to perform by the Performing Arts Series and School of the Arts.
Nobuntu is made up of five women from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and performs all their songs acapella. Their performance included songs, hymns, dance and brought to light issues that affect Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa. Periodically the captivated audience would clap along to the songs, and at moments were encouraged by the group to sing with them.
The ensemble kicked off their performance by having the hall pitch black with lights only shining on them, as Heather Dube kept a beat on a Djembe, a drum from Africa, and Thandeka Moyo began “Uthixo”, a song meant to bring praise to the Creator of life.
The group also took a moment to bring the audience’s attention to sexual violence and abuse. Dube made a statement that Nobuntu stands against all forms of abuse, and said the group hopes to use their music to increase awareness about child abuse in Zimbabwe. They dedicated the ‘Cry Song” — which acted as a cry for nations to stop all forms of abuse — to victims. The song was full of wails and had a somber tone, resonating among the audience and causing the room to go quiet.
The group then brought to light the pressure girls face to get married and give birth to boys. Zanele Manhenga said this pressure often leads them to seek witch doctors and traditional healers, and they go to great lengths to receive prophecies that confirm their babies will be male. She added men are not given judgment if the child is born female, and Zimbabwean society will view that women are barren.
Manhenga continued by saying the group is against forced marriages and it is woman’s choice to have a child.
The group then performed “Moya Moya”, highlighting the struggle an infertile women faces in society. Dube got on her knees and began to cry and crawl as the group sang. Dube performed actions that could be perceived as suicidal and at moments showed prayer. The power of her actions portrayed how the woman in the song feels incomplete and inadequate as a barren woman. As the performance continued, people in the audience shed tears.
Despite such sensitive topics, Nobuntu also cracked jokes of shopping in Old Navy and how they gambled at Circus Circus the night before.
The group then guided the audience in learning a few words in Ndebele — one of the main languages in Zimbabwe and involves clicking. The group encouraged the audience to sing the words, and the night ended with laughs, claps and a standing ovation. Their performance shows that regardless of background, music can unite audiences with a cause to create change.
Despite having little recognition in North America, the group has toured Africa and Europe performing at schools, churches and festivals giving them to courage to perform in North America after their second album “EKHAYA” released. The group won Outstanding Imbube Group in the 2017 Bulawayo Arts Awards and were nominated for Best Musician of the Year at the Zimbabwe International Women’s award in 2015.
Andrew Mendez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.