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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 10:24 GMT
Raunchy dance to sell Zimbabwe culture
By Steve Vickers
BBC News, Harare

Sandra Ndebele
Sandra Ndebele accuses her critics of double standards

Sexually provocative dances in skimpy outfits may not sound like a call for people to return to traditional values, but Zimbabwean singer and dancer Sandra Ndebele sees it as an important way of keeping culture alive.

Sandra, a controversial figure in the arts in Zimbabwe, also believes that her enticing dance routines can play a part in the fight against HIV and Aids.

On stage she wears a short skirt made from beads - traditional attire of the Ndebele community - as she gyrates her waist, wiggles her hips and thrusts her pelvis.

Vision

Besides her regular shows in the city of Bulawayo, Sandra performs at government-sponsored national music galas screened live on television to audiences of millions.

Although many fail to get the point, seeing her merely as a raunchy entertainer, Sandra believes that she has a profound message, particularly for urban youths.

There are those who see me as a sex symbol and there are those who see me as an African woman out there to revitalise culture
Sandra Ndebele
"Our culture is going down the drain, and I'm trying to revitalise it," she said.

"Young people who live in the cities don't know about their culture, they sit at home all day watching television and listening to Western music.

"I'm only 24, but I've got a vision whereby maybe one of these days you'll see women walking in town in those Ndebele traditional outfits.

Sandra feels that a return to some traditional practices would reduce unfaithfulness in relationships and lead to fewer divorces.

"A long time ago, a mother was not allowed to talk about sex with her daughter," she says.

"When you were at that stage of falling for men you'd be taken to your aunt's house and your aunt would teach you about sex.

"Your aunt would teach you how to make love, how you treat your man, how you move your waist and all, like I do in my dances.

"Men would be satisfied with their own wife and they wouldn't move on to other women, and it would reduce the spread of Aids."

'Scared'

With Zimbabwe being a relatively conservative country, Sandra's dancing will continue to raise eyebrows.

But she feels that her critics are using double standards.

Sandra Ndebele dancing
Sandra's dancing raises eyebrows in traditional Zimbabwe
"How many people dance like me? From America, Beyonce dances the same and parents still buy her CDs for their kids.

"From South Africa, Lebo [who died in an accident recently] used to dance the same way. People bought her CDs.

"There are those who see me as a sex symbol and there are those who see me as an African woman out there to revitalise culture."

Sandra is based at the Amakhosi Arts Centre in Bulawayo, where she also runs a restaurant that serves traditional food.

She is constructing a replica rural village where urban schoolchildren can learn about their customs and traditions.

"Most of the boys in town don't even know how to slaughter a goat, or even a chicken - they're scared.

"So this is their platform for them to come in and they practise all that so that when they grow up they'll be men and will be brave.

"Because that was what was done a long time ago when we had strong men."




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