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Culture the next frontier of Zimbabwe’s tourism sector

Culture the next frontier of Zimbabwe’s tourism sector

from DANIEL JONES in Victoria Falls
VICTORIA FALLS, (CAJ News) ZIMBABWE must tap into its rich and diverse cultural heritage if the country is to fulfill its vast tourism potential.

This is the general feeling among stakeholders as the country’s cultural villages along the Zambezi basin remain untapped.

The area, along the Zambezi River, right from Victoria Falls up to Kariba, teems with some villages showcasing the rich and diverse cultures including Nambya, Ndebele and Tonga.

These unique villages have been operational, albeit untapped in Binga, Hwange and Victoria Falls and there is a belief culture could be Zimbabwe’s treasure to attract tourists.

“The idea of a cultural village is to afford tourists time out of the hotel and town life so they meet people and get to learn about African culture in the villages,” said local operator, Jaheliduna Ndlovu.

He has for years been operating KoMpisi Cultural Village at his
homestead outside Victoria Falls.

“Tourists want to experience the real African life way of life, eat traditional food, interact with livestock and sleep in traditional huts,” Ndlovu said.

KoMpisi Cultural Village is a well-known attraction for tourists who want to experience rural life such as sleeping in huts whose floors are surfaced with cow dung, tilling the fields and eating traditional food.

Some groups book at the village while others are one-day visitors
brought by tour operators for a meet-the-people village visit before they retreat to the luxury of their hotels.

Ndlovu says before COVID-19 some clients would book overnight or longer at his village.

Tonga cultral music group

Dumisa Art and Cultural Centre, built in the mould of the Ndebele King Mzilikazi’s kraal, is located less than 20km away.

Operator Lizzy Ngwenya said her clientele are Westerners with a hunger for “real African experience.”

The hide-out comprises a rest camp, art and craft centre, chalets, a museum, a traditional centre resembling King Mzilikazi Kraal with huts.

All structures are built in traditional style, about 25km outside
Victoria Falls.

“We want to showcase African way of life,” Ngwenya said.

The museum stores traditional artefacts which are showcased at the
centre.

“The place is rich in culture and history as it depicts the evolution of a Ndebele homestead from Mzilikazi kraal to pole and dagga houses and the modern chalets. We added chalets so that those people who would want to sleep over would find it convenient and adventurous for them,” Ngwenya said.

She has hosted groups from Mauritius and Germany.

Ngwenya also bemoaned the effects of COVID-19, which has led to
cancellations of some trips by clients.

At Binga Craft Centre, artefacts such as basketry, curios and other items of the Tonga culture have been popular with foreign tourists.

Matabbeki Mudenda, a manager at the place, said among the artefacts is the Nyaminyami walking stick curved in the resemblance of a mythical goddess snake of the Zambezi River.

“Our baskets showcase Tonga culture and tourists love them. We have the Nyaminyami walking stick which we have put in the museum and international visitors throng to view it,” Mudenda said.

A couple, Jose Luis Regot and Maria, who operate Lola’s Restaurant in Victoria Falls, have undertaken to promote township tourism by
decorating some old buildings and structures in the city’s oldest suburb – Chinotimba- to attract tourists.

The couple is doing the project with the help of a group from Spain.

Regot said the idea was inspired by Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, where township and cultural tourism are a cash cow.

Township tourism is also booming business in Johannesburg’s Soweto
suburb in neighbouring South Africa.

Tourists flock to this oldest township to view vintage houses of former nationalists including Nelson Mandela while enjoying traditional meals from numerous restaurants serving traditional dishes.

Anald Musonza, a tourism executive, said village tourism had huge
potential.

“Tourism is not just to come and look at animals and the Falls,” he said.

“It is an exchange of cultures to show who we are as a people. Zimbabwe is very rich in culture and you would appreciate that elsewhere in the world people go into communities to learn other people’s cultures,” Musonza said.

He said there was need to invest in cultural tourism, tapping from
townships that were built in a unique way.

“People come to stay in hotels and leave without a true picture of our real life. Village tourism is massive. We need to promote it. It will help us create a longer stay for guests,” Musonza added.

– CAJ News

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