Music, Memory and the Mbira

Wednesday 6 January, 17.00 - 18.30 

Mbira from Zimbabwe. Wooden with metal prongs & bottle caps.

Our speakers respond to objects from Zimbabwe in the Pitt Rivers Museum as a way of talking about their relationships with archaeology, music and heritage. Who can perform music and create sound at the World Heritage site of Great Zimbabwe? What is the oldest mbira ever found and how do you excavate sound as an archaeologist? What does it mean to perform and create music with the mbira today? How do these objects tell us stories of independence and resistance?

Register for this online event here.



Dr Ashley Coutu, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Ashley Coutu is a Research Fellow at the Pitt Rivers Museum. Her research is interdisciplinary, reflecting interests and training across fields such as historical and medieval archaeology, African archaeology, isotope ecology, zooarchaeology and historical ecology. Her research contributes to historical ecology by unravelling the relationship between humans and elephants in the past and applying that knowledge to modern conservation as well as preserving cultural heritage in protected landscapes such as national parks and game reserves.




Dr Joshua Kumbani, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Joshua is a music archaeologist and heritage professional. He is interested in how people have made music in southern Africa from the last 10,000 years through the study of sound-related artefacts from the archaeological record.




Miles Ncube

Miles Ncube, Co-founder of MZIMBA Theatre Dance

Miles is a professional musician specialising in playing the mbira and co-founder of a theatre dance company performing contemporary African music and dance. Miles is from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and now resides in London.








Dr Ashton Sinamai, La Trobe University, Australia

Ashton is a cultural heritage specialist and archaeologist, who has written about the relationship between music, communities and archaeology in Zimbabwe as well as in England. In 2019, he published a book on these topics, entitled Memory and Cultural Landscape at Khami World Heritage Site: An un-inherited Past. Growing up a few miles from the World Heritage site of Great Zimbabwe, he has spent a lifetime thinking about memory, ancestry and music in his home town.


Professor Shadreck Chirikure

Professor Shadreck Chirikure, University of Oxford

Shadreck is an archeologist with expertise in ancient materials, technology, and state formation in southern Africa. His recent book Great Zimbabwe: Reclaiming a 'Confiscated' Past explores the politics of archaeology and heritage at Great Zimbabwe, revealing new finds from excavations by his team at the site and its greater landscape.