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Corporate entities sucking colour out of our tradition

Analysis: JACK ZIMBA
LAST weekend, Zambia hosted two masterpieces in as far as tradition and culture are concerned.
The Likumbi Lya mize, which showcases Luvale cultural heritage and Kulamba of the Chewa-speaking people have both been entered into the UNESCO hall of fame, hence their significance.
However, having attended a number of traditional ceremonies across the country, I have noted with dismay the way these cultural events have lost their value, meaning and colour due to various influences and infiltrations.
I am particularly concerned by the rebranding of these ceremonies by corporate entities, all in the name of sponsorship.
While it is greatly appreciable what the corporate entities do in terms of sponsoring these ceremonies, there is need to respect and preserve culture.
We must not put a price tag on culture, for it can never be bought with money – it is priceless and can only be exchanged for another culture.
Zambia today has 79 recognised traditional ceremonies and Government gives between K3,500 and K5,000 towards the hosting of these events.
Of course the amounts are insignificant, considering that some budgets for hosting these ceremonies run into the hundreds of thousands, but we need to keep a balance.
Corporate entities could sponsor these ceremonies without necessarily rebranding them using their corporate colours.
Companies should sponsor the ceremonies as a way of corporate social responsibility, without demanding that everyone in the arena adorns their colours.
Our culture is multi-coloured and not a monotonous red, yellow or green. Besides, I think foreign tourists love to see our women in their ethnic colours and not corporate-branded vitenges and T-shirts.
We must allow tourists – both local and foreign – to witness and experience our different cultures in their original and unadulterated form.
Also in many cases, these ceremonies have now been reduced to trade fairs, where all sort of merchandise is sold. And the aftermath is usually a hedonistic fanfare where youths indulge in all sort of illicit activities; activities that are at variance with the very culture that these ceremonies try to promote and uphold. Our forefathers would really hate to attend some of our ceremonies today due to our departure from the original concept and basis for these ceremonies.
There is need to put tradition back in these ceremonies.
There is need for organisers of these ceremonies to come up with more innovative ways of raising money to host the events to reduce their over-dependency on donations from corporate entities.
How about putting up guesthouses near venues for these ceremonies?
Both the Kulamba and Likumbi Lya mize, for instance, are big tourist attractions and the organisers of these events must tap into this resource to generate funds.
In fact, the so-called donations from corporate entities are not really donations, but payment for advertising and trading rights at these events – the bigger the donation, the greater the right to adverise and trade at the ceremony venue.
I have witnessed corporate rivalry turn into a physical turf war at one of these ceremonies because the non-donor was trying to put up a side-show to promote a new phone product.
If this trend goes unchecked, we risk losing our cultural heritage, a very frightening prospect indeed.
Lastly, we must celebrate our culture because we love it and it is part of our lives, and not because we want to package it for sale to foreign tourists.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail sub-editor