Traditional dances of Malawi

Malawi's famous Gule Wamkulu. Photo:

According to Music Africa Awake Reporter

With over 80 traditional dances, Malawi is a country with diverse cultural beliefs and practices. This text provides an overview of some of the country’s traditional dances in order to illustrate the country’s diversity.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

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.

Chewa: Chisamba

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.

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.


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