Honours Investigates Umakhweyane Zulu Bow
Mr Siphamandla Ngcobo, who graduated with an Honours degree in Applied Ethnomusicology, is making his mark as an ethnographic film maker. The title of the film he produced as part of his Honours research is Passing on the Baton: Investigating the contributions of Brother Clement Sithole in the development of the Zulu Umakhweyane Bow.
The film offers an in-depth history of this indigenous instrument and profiles the legends who played Umakhweyane.
Sithole teaches African Music and Dance students at UKZN to play the bow. He learned to play the instrument from Princess Magogo (mother of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi). As part of the film, Sithole visited his place of birth, Engoje, which is now part of the Ithala Game Reserve for the first time in 65 years. Going back to where it all started, he witnessed first-hand the manufacture of the instrument. Ngcobo was gifted with his own Umakhweyane bow and described it as ‘one of the best gifts I have ever gotten.’
‘The results of my research study were shocking such as the fact that Umakhweyane does not have a platform on radio. The majority of radio presenters and compilers have not played or interviewed any Umakhweyane artists on radio. Brother Clement with all his composition, live performance and vast experience has never got a chance to release an album under his name or benefited from any form of royalties,’ he said.
He believes his research will popularise the Umakhweyane bow by disseminating information on its manufacture and create job opportunities for those who produce it for the export market.
Ngcobo’s supervisor, Dr Patricia Opondo, said: ‘His study is significant in the Applied Ethnomusicology discipline as it documents the revitalisation and sustenance of an otherwise fading tradition. His film will be used as part of the course material in the Zulu Bow modules in the African Music and Dance Programme.’
Ngcobo plans to pursue his Masters in Applied Ethnomusicology and is grateful for the support received from family and friends.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photograph: Rajesh Jantilal