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  • Interpreting Zimbabwe's Third Chimurenga Through Kongonya:Representations of Post-2000 Zimbabwean Dance in Buckle's Beyond Tears: Zimbabwe's Tragedy and Mtizira's Chimurenga Protocol
  • Jairos Gonye (bio)

Kongonya1 dance appeared for the first time in rural Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia, a British colony) during the mid-1970s. The dance was performed by the armed guerrillas of the Zimbabwe African Nationalist Liberation Army (ZANLA) of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU-PF) political party and their supporters—especially the mujibha-s2 and chimbwido-s3—during all-night-long political meetings called pungwe4 in Shona language (Gonye 2013). The swashbuckling guerrillas, who choreographed and introduced kongonya, normally waved their AK-47 rifles in the air or slung them down their sides.

Guerrillas who fought against the Rhodesian colonial forces usually wore satin jeans or khaki outfits and berets or caps, distinguishing them from the ordinary peasants. They also wore jungle boots, whose buckles were sometimes loosely fastened. Together with the kongonya, their outlandish attire and weaponry were enough reason for attraction. I describe below the performance of kongonya as I witnessed it at a pungwe:

The pungwe aura, the blazing open ground fires and the emotion-charged revolutionary songs, provide the nocturnal background to the dance. The initiative to perform kongonya is random and spontaneous. This is wartime, and kongonya is neither a professional nor traditional dance. A male guerrilla signals the intention to perform kongonya by pacing up and down the margins of the crackling fire that mark the night's dance arena. In sync with the pungwe attendees' loud singing and plosive clapping, the guerrilla bends his torso forward, his arms cupped, like a kangaroo, and performs short bodily jumps forward. The guerrilla hops and heaves, sticks out his backside and stares vacantly in the horizon.

The dancer's wriggling, protruding backside rises and falls with every hop, jump, and twist. He strikes the ground with the soles of his boots and whistles. Dust rises with the dancer's flexing legs as he lifts his body and treads the ground with the flat of his soles, thrusting forward and sideways in sendekera5 style. The ground reverberates with a thick booom booom booom booom sound. Meanwhile, his boots' [End Page 26] buckles jingle kwechere kwechere kwechere, like metal bottle tops. This metallic jingling resonates with that of the bullet magazines and other war paraphernalia in the bandoliers that hug his upper waist.

The hopping guerrilla maneuvers his body left and turns at the distant boundary. He brings the inner side of his outstretched right leg boot in three successive strikes against the inner side of the left boot, while in midair. This jungle boot clapping—an exaggerated foot-mimicking of a military salute routine, otherwise termed mujibha or nhabo6—produces a plodding percussion reminiscent of the South African gumboot dance. The pungwe goers' wild applause reecho into the outlying darkness. Other guerrillas and attendees soon join excitedly in that great fearless performance. The kangaroo-like hops, thrusts, and twirling of countless hips and backsides continue into the night.

The entrance of female dancers in the fray, especially the female guerrillas and chimbwido-s, intensifies the provocativeness of the dance. The girls shake and arch their bodies spasmodically as they steal sly glances at the men. Girls' bosoms rise and fall as their youthful bodies undulate across the ground with elastic energy to the tune of revolutionary song, whistling, clapping, and ululation. The excitable girls challenge the male dancers to "chase" them. A female dancer, for instance, turns right round in a provocative posture. She stands with her backside brushing the groin region of an encroaching male dancer. She bends forward slightly, her hands on her knees, swirls her hips and then gyrates forward. She swings her backside rhythmically from side to side with such a hypnotic grip that dancers and watchers alike forget momentarily that it is wartime, teeming with prowling Rhodesian soldiers.

In the next routine, a male dancer, his stamping body vibrating, grips the waist area of a female dancer with both hands from behind. The female dancer, in turn, similarly holds the waist area of the next male dancer who...


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