The creation of traditional songs, and the dancing thereafter, is traditionally treated as the preserve of women, just like the task of drawing water from a distant river.
But the Malawi Folk ling Dance Songs and Society (MFDSS) — Central Region chapter seeks to change all that, and says it has been engaging both men and women in cultural preservation activities in order to reign in on practices that perpetuate gender imbalances through dance and song.
MFDSS Central Region Chairperson, James Kitchen, said in an interview on Wednesday that efforts targeted at preserving the country’s cultural artefacts such as dances and songs can bear fruit if men and women team up.
“All of us, as Malawians, have a role to play in making sure that culture is revived. Of late, foreign dances have been taking centre-stage, at the expense of our culture, and this endangers our traditions. That is why men have joined the cause of creating and preserving cultural artefacts such as msikwa, nguli, bawo, indigenous songs, cultural dances, among others,” Kitchen said.
Kitchen said collaborative efforts have started bearing fruit, citing the establishment of cultural troupes in the Central Region and the country’s other administrative regions.
“For example, Music Crossroads has a cultural troupe, we have Kwacha, Mchinji Ngoma, Tabwera, Kangoma, Mtendere and Paphata cultural troupes, among others. This is good because, of late, we have fallen into the habit of copying Nigerian dressing, manner of speech, among other things, to the extent that I can safely say that we have no identity, in terms of music, in Malawi.
“Apart from passing knowledge orally, we have also started preserving artefacts in writing because we want to avoid distortions. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria have aspects you can identify with them, but Malawi has none,” Kitchen said.
However, Kitchen observed that some cultural dances such as Gule Wamkulu (mask dance) are difficult to preserve, especially among those not well versed with the way they are done.
He said Gule Wamkulu dance should be done by those who have been initiated, saying others who do so anyhow violate the principle of mask dance.
Gule Wamkulu was in 2008 included on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (originally proclaimed in 2005).
MFDSS was established in 2003.
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