Communities always have stories to tell. Stories that reflect on social issues that happen around us. Some of the stories are told via the grape vine with modernization and technological advancements some stories make it to human ears via social networking sites. It is a different tale for a Bulawayo based group Bambelela Arts Ensemble (B.A.E) who for two decades now have been telling stories in a unique way bringing the community together.
“We never leg behind we move with the times and our community is our water and we are the fish”-Witness Tavarwisa(Director B.A.E)
The group which started in the early 90’s as a concept by unemployed youths as a platform to tackle social issues that happen around. At that time the challenging issues was unemployment and HIV/AIDS which then was treated as a taboo something that many believed should never be said in public events. The group consisted of 36 youths although with time most of them left for greener pastures and pursue other avenues in life but those who remained behind took it with passion and made the group what it is today.
The group was started in the small township of Matshobana and it accommodated youths from in and around the township which was formally used as home to National Railways of Zimbabwe workers. Having faced challenges the group has continued to use Matshobana as its home ground.
The community youth Centre is home to this well established ensemble. The ensemble has a success story in the community it has helped some young people find something worthwhile to do creating an opportunity to have employment. Creating productions that became mirrors of the society. It has given people room to readdress certain issues.
The past decade has seen a rise in back yard groups. Groups who came into business because of a certain agenda from politics to health. Bambelela has stayed afloat because they have a unique way of telling stories and building capacity.
The group uses community theatre as a strength which has a tap root in the community and the fact that they are always relevant. “We never leg behind we move with the times and our community is our water and we are the fish” says Mr. Witness Tavarwisa who is the ensemble’s director. He adds that the group will seize working if they are no longer communities in the world.
A self-funded institution Bambelela has made friends over the years. Established entities, NGO’s and other arts organizations have here and there supported them in certain areas providing a relief at times. Pastime Trust is one organization that members of the ensemble have gone to trust and love performing stage plays around schools in Bulawayo with a theme that looks at having good future leaders. Buddyz for love has come to be known in Bulawayo because of the talented young men and women the group has.
A fountain is full of life. It is said if someone uses the water to bathe he/she can be cleansed of bad luck. The productions we do are full of life and play a pivotal role in developing communities-Khumbulani Mathe B.A.E (Manager)
My love for theater was greatly inspired by the group and getting a chance to write about them has always been my wish. They have performed top notch productions. Plays that have evoked emotions created suspense, generated debate and made people laugh. One such play is crying games the play came at a time when being overseas was a thing in families telling a tale of how some irresponsible men took advantage of there hardworking children using money carelessly.
It was one special piece that had a strong message in people’s lives. Other notable productions from the ensemble include Wish list, just because, by the road side, phoyindaba kabani and naked truth which was penned award winning playwright Raisedon Baya.The group has performed at festivals that include Harare International Festival of the Arts (Hifa), Linkfest in the 90’s, Ibumba Arts Festival, Pastime’s Buddyz Arts Festival, Intwasa Arts Festival koBulawayo and SADC Multi DISCIPLINARY Festival in South Africa (2003).
A fountain is full of life. It is said if someone uses the water to bathe he/she can be cleansed of bad luck. The productions we do are full of life and play a pivotal role in developing communities. The group motto is: The fountain wisdom of the community. Making it clear that the community is at heart to them.
Veteran stage man Khumbulani Mathe has worked with the group since 1994 and is happy about everything he has learnt. He relieves the moments he performed during Hifa and says they were an eye opener and he never thought that one day in his life will perform to such an audience. The group also boost of Nama nominee Learnard Phiri, Nama award winner Josphat Ndlovu and NomalangaSibanda. Other notable members are young and energetic members Bongelani Ncube, Cythia Gambiza Prosper Sibanda, Shelton Dube and Tawanda Mukoma.