Unesco recognises mbira instrument sport

Arts Reporter

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) yesterday included the art of crafting and playing mbira on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This paves way for the expansion of cultural markets and business development for mbira artistes as the instrument is now officially recognised globally.

The announcement was made as part of the ongoing 15th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which is being held online until tomorrow.

The celebration of the achievement was held at the Rainbow Towers.

The nomination of mbira to the representative list has been done jointly with Malawi where the instrument is called sansi.

A statement on the examination of nominations for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco notes that the art of crafting and playing mbira/sansi, plays a key role in the communities concerned.

Speaking at the occasion, Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Kirsty Coventry said this was a milestone for Zimbabwe and the recognition of mbira as a local product presented a good tool for fighting piracy.

She said that the inscription of the mbira on the representative list of tangible cultural heritage of humanity was testimony that the Cultural and Creative Industries sector could contribute to the overarching goals of National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) which the Government is currently implementing.

“This economic blueprint recognises that culture has the power to transform entire societies, strengthen local communities and forge a sense of identity and belonging for the people of all ages and persuasions,” she said.

“Given that playing mbira is an important community practice, the lyrics of songs contain important social messages.

“They communicate information about events of the past, the present and the future. Under NDS1, the inscription will invoke national development; Government policy thrust on investment in local resources, including tangible and intangible heritage such as knowledge systems and skills as well as film, theatre, music, dance, visual art and fashion will receive attention,” she said.

She added that under the education and capacity building pillar of the strategy, the inscription of mbira provided an opportunity for the structuring of different training material at different levels in the crafting and playing of mbira.

Minister Coventry said the UNESCO inscription was key for the expansion of cultural markets and business development.

“It will lead to an increase on local and global demand for the mbira instrument, mbira music, mbira musicians and teachers. This is a call for us to preserve our cultural heritage which marks our identity as the people of Zimbabwe,” she said.

National Arts Council of Zimbabwe director Nicholas Moyo welcomed the recognition of the mbira and that it has the effect of bringing a local element, which is the art of crafting.

However, the inclusion of the mbira on the Unesco list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity follows the similar listing of the Jerusarema mbende dance.

In May this year, Google celebrated mbira during the country’s culture week.

And Google team yesterday proved this indispensable fact when they dedicated their doodle space to celebrate the mbira instrument as a way of saluting Zimbabwe for celebrating the culture week.

It was put on Google Doodle’s homepages.

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