BEADED with sweat on their faces and bodies as if they had just finished a Zumba class, the traditional dancers were evidently enjoying their rhythmic traditional chants and drum beats while ignoring the 32 degrees temperature as the sun blazed directly on their skin.
It was a Saturday afternoon and the clear skies supported by the hot weather left no room for doubt that the rainy season was still a long way to come.
The dancers who were performing at Acting Chief Saunyama’s homestead were taking part in the rainmaking ceremony for the Saunyama Clan of Nyanga.
They meant business as they completely ignored the heat.
Song and dance are perceived by the locals to be the communication medium between the living and ancestors.
However, only a special few lead the rainmaking ceremony dances and rituals.
Those invited from Mutare and Harare to witness the rainmaking ceremony sought to follow proceedings from the comfort of their cars as the heat was unbearable.
Suddenly, grey clouds started to gather in the sky blanketing over the sun. This signalled a seal of approval of the ceremony as no one explain the sudden change of the weather.
The date was October 22 when the Nyatate area in Nyanga received the first showers of rain.
As the first few drops started falling, the news crew managed to hook up with Acting Chief Saunyama.
He had to explain what was happening.
“Have you had something to drink yet? You should try our traditional brew that was prepared for this special occasion. I believe it is one of the reasons why our ancestors were quick to answer us because it is very potent,” laughed Acting Chief Saunyama.
The dancers never stopped, while the drummers pounded their traditional drums with great zeal and determination.
Gaiety was all over as the clouds opened to give more rains.
Clan elders and traditional healers were seated around a big clay pot which was full of the traditional brew.
They were drinking and thanking Musikavanhu (God) for His guidance and protection.
“We do this annually and it is always successful. I am so glad that you witnessed today’s proceedings. The sky was very clear and the grey clouds appeared from nowhere. This shows that our prayers for the rains have been answered,” explained Acting Chief Saunyama.
He said the rainmaking ceremony begins with traditional rituals which he refused to disclose, saying they are closely guarded clan secrets.
“A few chosen elders of the soko (monkey) and mheta (python) totems convene early in the morning at mukanganyama (dawn) and lead the performance of the rituals. We will be offering our sacrifices and communicating with our ancestors. After these rituals, we meet with the public and drink the traditional brew that would have been brewed by our elderly villagers and perform mafuwe (traditional dances),” he said.
The beer is brewed by elderly women well into menopause.
He said similar rituals (matatenda) are done before harvesting between April and May to thank the ancestors for a good harvest.
“Beer, sacrifices and sometimes snuff are used in the ceremonies,” he said.
Acting Chief Saunyama said apart from rain, they will also be praying for good harvests, good health, fertility and a lot more.
“We also pray for more blessings because we know that our ancestors have been protecting us since time immemorial. This is our culture and these are our customs, traditions, norms and values. They have worked for us all along and we will not stop. They will be passed on to the next generation,” he said.
However, scientists believe that the rains that were received in Nyanga were some of the effects of climate change.
Two days after the Nyanga rainmaking ceremony, the Meteorology Services Department (MSD) released a statement saying the light showers that were recorded in some parts of the country, Nyanga included did not signify the start of the rainy season and were as a result of climate change.
In a recent interview, MSD head of forecasting, Mr James Ngoma said Zimbabwe will this season receive normal to above normal rainfalls.
Due to climate change the country has in the past few years been recording adverse weather conditions with the worst being Cyclone Idai in 2019 leading to deaths of hundreds of people, livestock and destruction of infrastructure as well as property that included many houses.