6 yrs of sisterhood…Nobuntu’s unity on & off stage

The Chronicle

Bongani Ndlovu, Showbiz Correspondent
IT’S been six years since the formation of globe-trotting award winning all female imbube group, Nobuntu and as the adage goes, like fine wine, the group has gotten better with age.

The five-member group comprising Duduzile Sibanda-Mothobe, Joyline Sibanda, Zanele Manhenga (sister to Dudu Manhenga), Thandeka Moyo and Heather Dube has managed to defy all musical odds by holding fort in a male dominated field.

Although from varying backgrounds and upbringings, the ladies have become more like sisters over the years.

Nobuntu are preparing for a 16-state tour of America next month and were rehearsing at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo when Saturday Leisure spoke to them.

They revealed that they have been more in sync on stage than ever and attributed this to the fact that the group has grown to love each other off the stage.

“We are more in sync with each other as a group. We sound like one voice comprising different voices when we are on stage,” said Dudu, the leader of the group.

“We are not just five people who come together for work. We are now more of a family and we know each and everyone’s characteristics, struggles, fears, what they love and the like. I think that what makes us so in harmony on stage because we’re in harmony off the stage.”

Nobuntu to them is now more like a sisterhood and as with any “family”, there have been differences, misunderstandings and fights and each of them knows how to deal with the other.

For instance, members such as Dudu when upset are left to simmer but eventually come around, while for Zanele, known for her big heart, it is inevitable that whatever the issue is she cannot stay angry at anyone.

“Zanele is the first one who tries to resolve issues. She can’t stay angry at anyone because she has such a big heart. She’s the first to ask if, for instance, she is angry at me; that will we be angry at each other forever? Thandeka isn’t confrontational like Zanele,” said Heather who added that Zanele is their bodyguard.

Describing each other, Thandeka is said to be the baby of the group who doubles up as the makeup artiste and Nobuntu stylist. Dudu is the most talkative and forgetful one. Zanele is the big hearted bodyguard and fixer. Heather is the techno-savvy navigator of the crew while Joyline is the mother of the ensemble.

“Joyline is the person with a straight head in the group. When we do a lot of things like go out, she’s the one who is not over the top. She’s the voice of reason for all of us,” said Thandeka.

Despite their undoubted unity, it has not come cheaply as they have worked on it over the years.

Gruelling tours have made it a bumpy road that is not easy to navigate as some of them are mothers, wives and girlfriends who inevitably miss their children and family. Nobuntu has toured Austria, Germany, Canada and off late America as Zimbabwe’s cultural ambassadors.

“Sometimes we are away from home for two to three months and we miss home. We miss our spouses, children and family. It’s hard being so far away from home when we tour, but we have each other. We encourage each other when we are low,” said Joyline.

During their tours, they depict African culture especially from the Southern part of the great continent through their outfits on stage.

Heather dresses up in traditional Ndebele regalia, Dudu as a Zulu, Zanele in Venda garb, Joyline in Shangani and Thandeka depicting the Xhosa.

“All these people come from the southern part of Africa and Zimbabwe in particular. We want to show people around the world that there is more to Africa than East and West African fashion and traditional wear. That’s why we incorporate the dances and the fashion with our image,” said Zanele.

Remaining united as a group is very important as this augurs well for the group which received plaudits at the just ended Sanganai/Hlanganani World travel Expo where they stole the show.

Also during the album launch of Indosakusa: the Morning Star last week, they made a mark and people couldn’t get enough of them with their sterling performance.

And it was the perfect stage for them to introduce the masses to their upcoming album oBabes beMbube.

The album is described as a pure Imbube offering that does not have instruments such as their previous offerings over the years.

“The album will be different from Thina and Ekhaya as it is purely Imbube. We are an Imbube group that is all female and this is a gift we have been given that we want to cherish for long,” said Zanele.