Traditional dances of Malawi (2022)

These dances are performed on various occasions and for different reasons and are based on the beliefs of a particular tribe. For all the many tribes in Malawi, traditional dances are performed for a particular function or ceremony – for example during funerals, initiation ceremonies or harvest time. These are periods of unity, when families or villages come together, feast and resolve their differences. Some traditional dances are performed by everyone, while others are for particular people, based on their meaning and significance to the community.

Chewa: Gule Wamkulu

(Video) Best Traditional Dances of Malawi

Among the Chewa tribe, Gule Wamkulu (translated as the “Great Dance”) inherited from the tribe's past is performed in a circumstance. The Chewa believe that life exists not only with the living but also within their ancestors and those not yet born. The secret society of initiated Chewa, known as the Nyau, believe in communicating with the dead, or their spirits, calling this act pemphero lalikulu ("Great Prayer"). The masks worn by the dancers on such performances are in the form of animals such as antelopes, believed to capture the spirit of the deceased that brings renewed life. The purpose of the dance is said to be a way of communicating messages of the ancestors to the villagers and making possible continued harvests and continued life.

Although it is also performed during initiation ceremonies, funerals, initiations and the installation of a new chief, during each harvest season, a chief or mwini mzinda - a guardian of the dance - calls for the dance to start. Some seasons start following the farming calendar and vise versa. This is due other aspects that are put into consideration which include weather, and the education calendar. But for some parts it lasts for a shorter period. During this period, the village reproduces the symbolic elements of the older cultural way of life.

Every Chewa boy is required to undergo initiation and thereafter considers himself a member of the Gule Wamkulu society. Amongst the Chewa, Gule Wamkulu is also considered their religion as it almost involved in almost each and every way of their life. Since 2005,Gule Wamkuluhas been classified as one of the 90Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, a programme byUNESCOfor the preservation of intangible cultural heritage.

Chewa: Chisamba

(Video) traditional dance malawi

To compliment Gulewamkulu, Chisamba is a female initiation ritual among the Chewa tribe. Chisamba is very popular in the Central Region of Malawi where the Chewa are found. The ritual takes place at a tree of maidenhood (Mtengo Wa Anamwali). Here, girls receive instructions on the protocols of womanhood. This includes many warnings of the presence of predatory males who look to them for sexual satisfaction. During Chisamba, girls undergo their own transformation into women. They are stripped of their clothes in the insignia of Gule Wamkulu. The most important insignia is the animal figurine (chingondo) placed on their heads, a representation of a hare, a serpent or an elephant, the three most prestigious beasts of the night.

The dance that accompanies this process is also known as Chisamba. It is performed by women, led by a senior woman, usually the chief's sister (known as Namkungwi). During Chisamba (both the initiation and the dance), women who act as the instructors of the young girls escort them into the adult community. Everyone descends on the chief's courtyard to witness the ceremony. Through primarily an initation ritual, Chisamba dance is also performed at the funerals of chiefs and important individuals in the village, and it is also common to find Chisamba dance being performed for entertainment at important occasions.

Ngoni: Uyeni

For many tribes, traditional dances by young members of the community are not only for entertaining the village but are to be performed at various social occasions with different meanings. For example, Uyeni is a Ngoni dance that is performed by girls during the installation of a chief. Young girls perform the dance barefoot with their breasts exposed. The dancers accompany the king to the Bwalo, or the coronation ground. As per traditional beliefs, this cements the notion that women are custodians of culture.

(Video) Nyau Dance of the Gule Wamkulu Secret Society in Malawi

Balambia: Sendemule

Sendemule is a traditional dance performed by the Balambia people of Chitipa in northern Malawi during funerals, chief installation ceremonies and for entertainment. When Sendemule is performed at funerals, the songs are appropriately mournful, and when it is performed at a chief's installation ceremony or when a dangerous animal like a lion is killed, the songs depict triumph. Today Sendemule is performed at many social gatherings, where the dancers usually dress casually.

Tonga: Chilimika

The Chilimika dance by the Tonga tribe is from the Northern region of Malawi, Nkhata Bay in particular. It is performed by young boys and girls at the beginning of each year - no wonder then that the name is translated into English as 'year'. This dance gives room to the young generation to entertain the older generation of a particular community. It is a platform whereby parents and grandparents appreciate the inheritance of traditional rituals by the younger population.

(Video) Beni - A Malawian Traditional Dance

Sena: Likhuba

Some dances are performed to cure diseases and psychological illness. For example, Likhuba, a traditional dance among the Sena tribe from the Lower Shire in southern Malawi, aims to cure psychological illness in women. It is largely an acrobatic demonstration of male prowess and at the end of the day, a woman was indeed cured. Unfortunately, these days it is performed just for entertainment on a particular occasion.

Tumbuka: Vimbuza

Among the Tumbuka tribe from northern Malawi, Vimbuza dance is performed for healing. The healing ritual dates back to the mid-19th century, when it developed as a means of overcoming traumatic experiences of oppression, specifically British occupation - although it was forbidden by Christian missionaries.

(Video) GULE WAMKULU

Most patients are women who suffer from various forms of mental illness. They are treated for some weeks or months by renowned healers who run a temphiri, a village house where patients are accommodated. After the diagnosis has been made, patients undergo a specific healing ritual. Women and children of the village where the temphiri is located form a circle around the patient, who slowly getting into a trance, and sing particular songs in which helping spirits are called. By becoming possessed by Vimbuza spirits, people who have experienced mental harm could express this in a way that was accepted and understood by the surrounding society.

For the Tumbuka, Vimbuza is both an artistic production and a therapeutic approach. It is regarded as a useful complement in cases where other forms of medical treatment do not prove successful. Its continually expanding repertoire of songs, its complex drumming tradition and the virtuosity of the dancing are all part of the rich cultural heritage of the Tumbuka. Vimbuza is still practiced in rural areas where the Tumbuku live, but faces severe opposition by Christian churches and missionaries - and sometimes doctors propagating modern psychiatric treatment. Environmental degradation is another problem since healers find it more difficult to find the necessary plants used in their traditional medicine in the Vimbuza healing ritual. Many people who are not conscious of the medical benefits of Vimbuza reduce it to a form of entertainment without recognizing its spiritual character and effects.

The dances outlined above are some of the dances that influence the music of Malawi. Many of today’s popular urban artists are following the path of their traditions. A good example is rapper Tay Grin (real name Limbani Kalilani), who adopted his native Gule Wamkulu and fuses it with hip-hop to make his own sound. Local music and traditional dances seem to be going hand in hand, which is helping to preserve the magic and memories that these dances hold.

FAQs

What is the traditional dance of Malawi? ›

Gule Wamakulu, translated literally as “The Big Dance,” is the most famous of the traditional Malawian dances. Gule Wamakulu is both a dance and a secret society among Malawian tribes, with the society and the men and women who are a part of the society called Nyau.

How many traditional dances are there in Malawi? ›

In Malawi there are over eighty (80) traditional dances but described below are a third of the dances.

Who started Muchongoyo dance? ›

Ndau people

What is Gule Wamkulu dance? ›

Gule Wamkulu, meaning “The Great Dance” is an ancient practice of the Chewa people in, Malawi. The dance traces back to at least 300 A.D. as a way for the village to communicate with their ancestors' spirits. Dancers are said to “put on” a spirit when they put on a mask and start dancing.

What is Beni dance? ›

Beni dance originated from the two World Wars of 1914 - 1918 and 1939 - 1944. The dance was developed by ex-servicemen, based on the old military parades performed during the war.

How do they dress in Malawi? ›

The only traditional attire for Malawian women is basically a three-piece set of blouse, long skirt, and matching headgear called duku. For men, a safari suit, usually short-sleeved shirt and matching trousers, is said to be traditional dress, though these were also borrowed from East Africa.

What is the Ngoni traditional dance called? ›

The dance being studied is called Ingoma. This is a predominantly male dance, which was originally performed as a warrior and hunting dance of the Ngoni. Ingoma, in Ngoni language, means a song or music.

What is the main religion in Malawi? ›

Religion. Some three-fourths of the population is Christian, of which the majority are members of independent Christian or various Protestant denominations and the remainder are Roman Catholic. Muslims constitute about one-fifth of the population.

What kind of food do they eat in Malawi? ›

Malawian cuisine includes the foods and culinary practices of Malawi. Tea and fish are popular features of Malawian cuisine. Sugar, coffee, corn, potatoes, sorghum, cattle and goats are also important components of the cuisine and economy.

What is Mbende? ›

This demonstrates that the Zezuru community used Jerusarema dancing for ritual purposes. Its original name was Mbende, which is the name of a burrowing and extremely fast-running mouse. Mbende refers to the dancers' mimicking and copying of the rodent's darting motions.

Who dances Mbakumba? ›

The Mbakumba dance is a polyrhythmic dance that is traditionally performed after harvest and is still used today for entertainment. Mhande dance is mostly popular among the Karanga people of Zimbabwe. The dance uses indigenous ritual context or spirituality (known as chikaranga).

Why is traditional dance important? ›

What is the importance of folk dance? Primarily, it keeps a culture of people alive, by sharing and teaching younger generations the dances. Dance keeps the history of people alive as well. Dances are ways a community celebrates a special event or important date in time.

What is Ndendeule dance? ›

NDENDEULE, one of Zambia's traditional dances, which is also a puberty rite dance for young girls, took Centre stage at a Zambia Night Out held at a local hotel in Harare at the weekend.

What is Zvigure? ›

THE Nyau or Gule, popularly known in Zimbabwe as zvigure, are an enigma. Mystic, misunderstood and feared — their secrets have been hidden for centuries behind gory masks, cryptic dances and bizarre costumes.

What is used in Amabhiza dance? ›

He said the dance was called amabhiza because the dancer would be trying to emulate the movements of a horse. “The male dancers will use horse tail hairs which are called itshoba that they will throw about and dance in step while the women clap and sing while some play the drums.

Can you wear shorts in Malawi? ›

In Malawi, it is considered inappropriate for women to show their knees in public. It is not acceptable for women to drink or smoke. Generally, men don't wear shorts and women don't wear trousers.

What should I pack for Malawi? ›

Here's a list of what you should consider packing before flying to the warm heart of Africa. Remember to pack according to the climate, Malawi's generally tropical.
...
Packing list:
  • Passport.
  • USD for visas and park fees.
  • Malawian and Zambian Kwacha.
  • Daypack.
  • Binoculars.
  • Camera.
  • Closed walking shoes.
  • A basic first aid kit.

What is the name of Sukuma traditional dance? ›

The Sukuma ethnic tribe is known for its daring Bugobogobo, the snake dance!

What is the traditional dance of Yao? ›

The Amalilo is a large group dance involving both men and women usually seen during the end of unyago (initiation) periods.

What is the Bemba traditional dance? ›

According to Mapoma (1980:38), mfunkutu is not only a name of a specific dance, but also a generic name of a specific genre of music which is performed by 'older' Bemba at social functions such as weddings, beer parties or at a presentation ceremony.

Who named Malawi? ›

In 1953, it became a protectorate within the semi-independent Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The Federation was dissolved in 1963. In 1964, the protectorate was ended: Nyasaland became an independent country under Queen Elizabeth II, and was renamed Malawi. Two years later it became a republic.

Is Malawi a poor country? ›

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with 50.7 percent of the population living below the poverty line and 25 percent living in extreme poverty.

What are 5 facts about Malawi? ›

Malawi – 10 Facts you didn't know
  • Malawi. ...
  • UNESCO protected. ...
  • Importance of dance. ...
  • Rural communities. ...
  • Fourth poorest in Africa. ...
  • Malawi was the first country in Africa to grow tea on a commercial scale. ...
  • Lake Malawi contains the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world. ...
  • The lake of the stars.
5 Aug 2016

What is someone from Malawi called? ›

The Malawi people are of Bantu origin and comprise of many different ethnic groups. These include Chewa, Nyanja, Yao, Tumbuka, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian and European. The Chichewa (Chewa) people form the largest part of the population group and are largely in the central and southern parts of Malawi.

What do Malawians eat for breakfast? ›

Nsima is a thick maize porridge that most Malawians eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is usually served with a relish type dish known locally as Ndiwo. Relish is a Ndiwo is used as a flavoring for the Nsima.

What is Malawi known for? ›

The Tiny Country with the Big Heart – Malawi

It is well-known for its smiling, friendly people. Most importantly, it is known for its extraordinary freshwater lake, Lake Malawi, which dominates this landlocked country. The clear waters and tranquil islands provide the perfect, laid-back beach holiday.

What is Shangara dance? ›

e) Shangara- This is a social dance found in the country, particularly in central Mashonaland. It refers to fast rhythmic footwork by one or two people at a time within a circle of gathering of other participants and observers. There is often mbira and hosho accompaniment.

What is Mbakumba dance? ›

The Mbakumba dance is a polyrhythmic dance that is traditionally performed after harvest and is still used today for entertainment. The Jerusarema dance and the Muchongoyo dance are two of the most important, distinctive dances in Zimbabwe, and are both accompanied by drums.

What is the meaning of Jerusarema dance? ›

The Jerusarema is a historical dance that documents a tactic of war used by a people with a deep sense of pride and perseverance. Although not technically a war dance, inasmuch as the dancers are not enacting a war scene or demonstrating preparation for war, the Jerusarema is in effect a war dance.

Who dances Amabhiza? ›

Amabhiza is a Kalanga tribal dance, this dance originated in Matabeleland South Province of Zimbabwe. This dance was performed during rain asking ceremonies to appease the spirits of the rainmakers for a good harvest.

How many types of traditional dance are there? ›

Lavani, Nakata, Koli, Lezim, Gafa, Dahikala Dasavtar or Bohada. Odissi (Classical), Savari, Ghumara, Painka, Munari, Chhau. Kathi, Gambhira, Dhali, Jatra, Baul, Marasia, Mahal, Keertan. Bhangra, Giddha, Daff, Dhaman, Bhand, Naqual.

What are the 10 benefits of dancing? ›

10 Health Benefits of Dancing
  • Better Brain Health. ...
  • Improved Flexibility. ...
  • Minimized Stress. ...
  • Reduced Depression. ...
  • Weight Loss. ...
  • Increased Energy. ...
  • Improved Cardiovascular Health. ...
  • Better Coordination Strength & Balance.

What are the five purpose of dance? ›

better coordination, agility and flexibility. improved balance and spatial awareness. increased physical confidence. improved mental functioning.

What are the characteristics of traditional dance? ›

Traditional dance goes with traditional music using traditional drums and instruments. We dance to the rhythm of the song or the beat of the instruments. Traditional dances usually involves the twisting of the waist, clapping, bending the back and the knees, shaking the head and movement of the hands and legs.

Where is Kalindula dance performed? ›

It originated in the late 20th century and is popular in Zambia and is also found in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Some people claim it originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo but this cannot be fully supported by the evidence. It combines features of 20th century popular music with rhythmic and metric elements.

What are the names of the traditional dances in Zambia? ›

Zambian Traditional Ceremonies.
CEREMONYDISTRICTTRIBE
Kulamba KubwaloChibomboLenje
Musaka JikubiMumbwaKaonde
Ikubi Lya Malumbe-MunyamaMumbwaKaonde Ila
Ichibwela MushiMkushiBisa/Swaka/Lala
1 more row

Is Nyau a sacred dance? ›

The purpose of the dance is said to be a way of communicating messages of the ancestors to the villagers and making possible continued harvests and continued life. Nyau is a protection against evil and an expression of religious beliefs that permeate society.

Where is Ingquzu dance originated from? ›

1 Ingquzu According to Nyathi (2001:44) Ingquzu dance came with the Zulu who came from South Africa. They later called themselves the Ndebele when they mingled with the Kalangas and other captives.” Today the dance is common in Matabeleland. In the olden days there was no particular dress for this dance.

What is the name of the Chewa God? ›

Just as "Yahweh" was revealed as the actual name of Israel's God (and strictly speaking, his only unique "name"), so also Chauta has gradually grown in national prestige to refer to the deity of the Chewa people as a whole.

What type of a dance is Amantshomane? ›

Spirit Dances- 'Amantshomane for Hunters and Nyangas' is a Zulu language song and is sung by Performers with Drums. Spirit Dances- 'Amantshomane for Hunters and Nyangas', from the album Music of Man Archive - Zimbabwe - The Ndebele People, was released in the year 2016.

What is the origin of Mbakumba dance? ›

Mbakumba originated among the Karanga used to celebrate good harvests but now essentially performed for social purposes (Zimbabwe Encyclopedia 1987:102). It is a celebratory dance performed at weddings, beer parties and other joyful occasions.

What is the most popular style of dance? ›

Jazz. Jazz is the most popular style of dance among dancers. Jazz combines all dance styles in a high energetic dance that is without conventional boundaries. It has been influenced by ballet, modern, tap, hip-hop, African dance and many more styles.

What is the Ngoni traditional dance called? ›

The dance being studied is called Ingoma. This is a predominantly male dance, which was originally performed as a warrior and hunting dance of the Ngoni. Ingoma, in Ngoni language, means a song or music.

What is Malawi known for? ›

The Tiny Country with the Big Heart – Malawi

It is well-known for its smiling, friendly people. Most importantly, it is known for its extraordinary freshwater lake, Lake Malawi, which dominates this landlocked country. The clear waters and tranquil islands provide the perfect, laid-back beach holiday.

What is Malawi's culture? ›

All of Malawi's people share a common Bantu origin. The population is made up of eleven different ethnic groups, each with their own set of cultural norms and practices. The largest ethnic group is the Chewa tribe, and their mother tongue, Chichewa, is the official spoken language of Malawi.

What is the name of Sukuma traditional dance? ›

The Sukuma ethnic tribe is known for its daring Bugobogobo, the snake dance!

What is the meaning of Ncwala? ›

Nc'wala is an annual traditional ceremony where the Ngoni people of the Eastern Province of Zambia come together during the last weekend of February to pay homage to their chief Mpezeni and God for the gift of the first fruits and food.

What is the traditional dance of Yao? ›

The Amalilo is a large group dance involving both men and women usually seen during the end of unyago (initiation) periods.

What is Malawi old name? ›

Malawi has a British back-story

A British protectorate was established in 1889. By 1907, it had taken on the formal name "Nyasaland" - a title which endured until 1964, when the protectorate was dissolved and Malawi became an independent country (becoming a republic two years later).

Who named Malawi? ›

In 1953, it became a protectorate within the semi-independent Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The Federation was dissolved in 1963. In 1964, the protectorate was ended: Nyasaland became an independent country under Queen Elizabeth II, and was renamed Malawi. Two years later it became a republic.

How do you say hello in Malawi? ›

Muli bwanji, is the appropriate greeting. It is customary to greet everyone with a handshake and a greeting. In rural areas, it shows respect if you lightly grasp your right forearm with your left hand. This can also be accompanied by a slight dip at the knees, accompanied by bowing down the head.

What are 5 facts about Malawi? ›

Malawi – 10 Facts you didn't know
  • Malawi. ...
  • UNESCO protected. ...
  • Importance of dance. ...
  • Rural communities. ...
  • Fourth poorest in Africa. ...
  • Malawi was the first country in Africa to grow tea on a commercial scale. ...
  • Lake Malawi contains the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world. ...
  • The lake of the stars.
5 Aug 2016

What tribe is Malawi? ›

The Malawi people are of Bantu origin and comprise of many different ethnic groups. These include Chewa, Nyanja, Yao, Tumbuka, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian and European. The Chichewa (Chewa) people form the largest part of the population group and are largely in the central and southern parts of Malawi.

Who discovered Malawi? ›

In the 10th century, Bantu-speaking people from the north took over the region and have remained in Malawi until today. Around 1600, Portugese traders arrived and the slave trade dramatically increased along the Indian Ocean. In 1859 Dr. David Livingstone discovered Lake Malawi and led the way for future missionaries.

How do you say thank you in Malawi? ›

One of my favorite words in Chichewa, one of Malawi's languages, is Zikomo. It means “Thank you,” and it also means “You're welcome.” You use it all the time.

How do you say goodnight in Chichewa? ›

A collection of useful phrases in Chichewa, a Bantu language spoken in Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The language is known as Chewa (chicheŵa) in Malawi, and Nyanja (chinyanja) in Zambia and Mozambique.
...
Useful phrases in Chichewa.
Phrasechicheŵa (Chichewa)
Good nightUsiku wabwino Gonani bwino (sleep well) Mugone bwino (sleep well)
60 more rows

How many tribes are there in Malawi? ›

Ten major ethnic groups are historically associated with modern Malawi—the Chewa, Nyanja, Lomwe, Yao, Tumbuka, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, and the Lambya/Nyiha.

Videos

1. 08 Malawi National Dance Troupe 14
(Pamtondo Inc)
2. MALAWI TRADITIONAL DANCE GULEWAMKULU AND CHISAMBA
(Daniel Kambalame)
3. Rarely Seen Malawi’s VIRGIN DANCE +Best Traditional DANCEs + Chief’s Installation Malawian YouTuber
(AFRICAN BOSS Tv 📺 ABTV)
4. The Beni dance
(Anthony C)
5. Mganda from Malawi
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6. Malawi traditional dance- Beni
(Daniel Kambalame)

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