World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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9 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 22

In Africa, if you can speak, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance. If you cannot do either, then you have a problem.

This was the message given to delegates attending the World Council of Churches Eighth Assembly during an African cultural evening Tuesday (8 December) that presented a variety of music, dance and poetry.

Performers came from Zimbabwe, which is hosting the Assembly at Harare, and from Namibia, Tanzania, Lesotho and South Africa. The dedication of the Tanzanian group, a 31-strong youth choir, illustrated the enthusiasm performers brought to the event. Their animated performance marked the culmination of a four-day journey by bus and ferry from Kasulu.

"We'd been preparing for this trip for four months," said the Rev. Jackton Lugumira, pastor of their home church. "This was our first performance for an international audience." The choir spent 36 hours on a ferryboat, which carried them to the Zambian border. "It took us three hours to clear the border," said Mr Lugumira. "Then our bus broke down." The choir had to leave the morning after the show to catch the ferry back.

Guests were greeted for the cultural evening in ten African languages, in recognition of representatives at the Assembly from various parts of the continent. The Kambuzuma Church Choir performed first and their songs had people nodding in unison while their gestures transmitted the messages of solidarity that some of the delegates did not understand in words. Dressed in black robes with white scarves, the choir was a fusion of youth and the older generation.

The Mhembero Dance Group performed a "mbakumba' harvest dance to the sound of the "mbira' (thumb piano). Two couples danced, the women carrying a reed basket or a clay pot on their heads and rattling the instruments tied to their calves. The men were dressed in animal skins with feathers on their heads. A change of tempo was provided by the serene tunes of a local "mbira' player, Dr Dumisani Maraire, who had the audience swaying as he taught them how to sing along to his tune.

The Rejoice in Hope Choir from Namibia, 50 people of several races, presented a fusion of religious, traditional and popular music, sometimes switching to the "spantsula' dance, popular with young people in some southern Africa nations. Central African music was sung by a choir from Tanzania and one of the dancers, Chipawo from Zimbabwe, danced the rhumba to a song by a Zairean singer. A "praise poet" from South Africa, Zolani Mkiva, who is 26 and performs for President Mandela, was not easy to follow but the crowd was roused by his emotion.

Petite Denisa Bologova, 17, from the Czech Republic was surprised when one of the powerful Ihawu Lesizwe dancers beckoned her to come on stage. She joined in but could not help flinching when the ground-stamping young men lifted their legs into the air and brought them down with a thunderous sound. Delegates from Lesotho performed with blankets tied around their shoulders and conical reed hats on the men's heads. A seven-member choir from a Harare school amused the audience when a white boy did a continuous rendition of the traditional female ululation. Using traditional instruments, the choir sang one song, "Marching in the Light of God", in Shona, Ndebele and English, the three main languages of Zimbabwe.

The last group was from Musukutwa, a Bikita cultural club that performed a dance based on chasing baboons from the fields. The evening concluded with all performers singing, in their own languages, "Nkosi Sikeleli Africa"/"Ihe Komborera Africa"/"God Bless Africa".

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
Press and Information Office, Harare
Tel: +
E-Mail: WCC media

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 339, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.