Amagugu International Heritage Centre is a community based tourism enterprise in Matobo Hills. It is the epitome of excellence in the documentation, preservation and promotion of indigenous cultural heritage.
The centre was established in 2010 as a brain child of the history and culture demagogue Mr Pathisa Nyathi who is also a veteran educationist. Tourists and researchers go to the centre from all over the world to enjoy, learn and get inspiration from Amagugu International Heritage Centre. The name Amagugu refers to the collection of tangibles and intangibles held precious or valuable to a community or individual.
Core of Existence
At the core of the existence of Amagugu International Heritage Centre are very significant ideals that include carrying out research on, documentation and promotion of tangible and intangible indigenous cultural heritage; development and enrichment of the consciousness of the people about their cultural heritage and fostering respect for cultural identities; cultivation of cultural exchange and affording indigenous culture international prominence; development of skills and knowledge relating to traditional crafts; and the collection and preservation of local cultural artefacts.
Amagugu International Heritage Centre’s philosophy anchors on community participation which has provided the men and women of Matobo a means to express their cultural heritage and how they have over the years interacted with their natural environment. African cultures are never divorced from their natural environments and it is the fusion and interdependence of the two that has seen places like Matobo Hills have world recognition.
Matobo Hills Cultural Landscape is a Unesco World Heritage Site in recognition of that combined heritage and Amagugu International Heritage Centre (AIHC) affords the local community to be part of the matrix. The guiding philosophy is the creation of a self-sustaining, rural-based cultural tourism enterprise that empowers the local people through packaging their way of life into a vibrant tourist product.
“Where nature and culture meet’’ is the motto of the centre in resonance of this unique aspect of the Matobo Hills which is testimony to the success story of African cultural practices and indigenous knowledge systems in preserving nature. According to Mr Nyathi, where the Western world has science, Africa has culture and what science has over the years achieved for its proponents, culture has always achieved for Africa.
The centre provides a venue for cultural activities and also organises a variety of such events as well as educational and recreational programmes for the public. In their determination to foster community participation, AIHC organises an annual traditional culinary expo where the people of Matobo come and prepare and showcase their local traditional cuisines.
People from beyond Matabeleland are invited to come and get a taste of the delicacies as a way of promoting the culture of the local people and also promoting culinary tourism. The expo is held every April after the passage of rains. Another annual event in which Amagugu plays an organising role in conjunction with other corporate partners is the My beautiful home contest in which the women of Matobo culturally decorate and beautify their homes and a panel of judges decide who the winners are after a tour of the participating homes. This is a brilliant idea promoting village tourism and empowering women.
Amagugu is also complementing Government efforts by supporting the new education curriculum that aims to promote cultural heritage awareness in the young people. The centre also participates in policy formulation on heritage. The thrust of these festivals where rural women dominate the show is to ensure that no one is left behind in the cultural affairs of the country, this in recognition of the fact that the bigger dividend of the country’s population is in the rural areas and also that women constitute the larger proportion of the population.
Participatory cultural activities at the centre include the age old art of making fire through rubbing sticks together, fetching water from a well using traditional utensils, grinding/pounding sorghum grain on stones and using pestle and mortar, cooking isitshwala/sadza, setting snares as the ancestors used to do, traditional fencing, beer brewing, sorghum threshing, and polishing floors among many others. Craft making at the centre includes pottery/ceramics, skin/leather tanning, wood carving, iron working, basketry, and stone sculpture.
Visitors to Amagugu International Heritage Centre, young and old get to learn and participate in a variety of performing arts disciplines including traditional music and dances such as amabhiza, njelele, amajukwa, isitshikitsha, poetry, ululating, imvokloklo, nursery rhymes, lullabies, story-telling, traditional games and sports which represent different cultures found across the great country of Zimbabwe. Cultural diversity is celebrated at Amagugu International Heritage Centre and this reflects the zeal, passion and drive in the heart of Mr Nyathi and everyone at Amagugu to see the unification of the different ethnicities of the people of Zimbabwe and the Southern African region through the knowledge of their history and culture. After spending a bit of time with Mr Nyathi, one will realise that history is full of facts that will bring people to embrace one another rather than alienate them and that some of the conflicts people have are a result of lack of appreciation of historical facts as well as lack of a clear self-identity.