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Power of traditional dances

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By Sam Banda Jnr:

IDENTITY—Chichiri Heritage Entertainment performs

Gone are the days when parents used to take their children to the village every school holiday to learn some of the traditions that form a strong bone for our culture.

One of the traditions that have cemented culture are traditional dances.

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Like other countries, Malawi has several traditional dances that are performed across the three regions.

In the Northern Region for instance, they have traditional dances such as Malipenga and Chilimika from Nkhata Bay District.

Chilimika is an attractive dance performed by, mostly, women in Nkhata Bay. Sometimes there are actually competitions which would bring together participants from different areas.

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As for Malipenga, this is a dance that is associated with smartness and it is believed to have been started by ex-servicemen who developed it from the military parades.

There is also a dance similar to Malipenga known as Mganda which is performed in districts such as Kasungu, Nkhota-kota, Salima, Ntchisi, Dowa and Lilongwe.

There are also other traditional dances such as Ingoma, Mwinoghe and vimbuza which is a spiritual dance.

In the Central Region there are dances such as Gule Wamkulu, which has been labelled the great dance while in the Southern Region there are dances such as Tchopa, Manganje, Beni and Likhuba just to mention a few.

All these dances form part of the country’s culture and continue to give an identity to Malawi.

The beauty of the country’s dances have been seen through the recognition of some of these dances by Unesco on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage with the recent one being mwinoghe.

Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development Everton Chimulirenji said recently that the country has done well in preserving its culture but it still needs to do more.

“Having some of our traditional dances listed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage is a clear testimony that the country has powerful and rich traditional dances but we need to value them and we have to continue performing them,” Chimulirenji said.

All these dances in the country are performed for a purpose and they are not the same. They all have their varied styles.

Through these dances, there is an element of music and dance.

This brings us to dance troupes which have been on song in the country entertaining people through traditional dances.

In the past, the song was only about Malawi National Dance Troupe but, over the years, a lot of dance troupes have been created across the country.

Some of the dance troupes which have been aggressive in terms of presenting traditional dances in the country include Sambang’oma, Chichiri Heritage Entertainment and Dikamawoko Arts.

There is also Chichiri Prison Dance Troupe, which has, of late, won the hearts of people. This is a group made up of prisoners and prison warders.

Their exceptional exploits has seen them being hired by different organisations including Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) to spread different electoral messages ahead of the May 21 2019 elections.

These dance troupes have played a crucial role in promoting and preserving the country’s culture through dances.

They however still need to open up more doors in terms of performances as many have relied heavily on festivals and other culture events.

In the past years, people used to embrace some of these traditional dances during independence celebrations but there have to be more platforms if the current generation has to learn some of these traditional dances.

“We surely need more platforms because we fear for the current generation which is so obsessed with Western styles and as a result we will have a nation which does not know some of its traditional dances,” Peter Masina, who is Chichiri Heritage Entertainment Director said.

He said they are more focused now on making sure that they hold performances frequently as part of reaching out to the youth.

“We are happy that some venues in the country are realizing the importance of traditional dances and have created platforms for showcasing these dances,” Masina said.

Dikamawoko Arts leader Tennyson said in their group they have many youths who have come out to love traditional dances.

“We actually started holding afternoon sessions at Kwa Haraba Art Gallery in Blantyre. The idea was to reach out to more people. We also took time out to perform in schools but due to resources we took a break,” Tennyson said.

Masina said traditional dances have also proved key in disseminating different messages.

“It is not only about offering entertainment but rather traditional dances are also powerful in terms of disseminating messages. At the moment we have been using traditional dances to fight the barbaric acts of abductions and killings of people living with albinism,” he said.

Masina said at the moment they are researching more traditional dances to add to their collection.

“As a group we perform traditional dances from all the three regions. We perform dances such as Mganda, Chimtali, Mbotosha, Chisamba, Chinamwali, Manganje, Lupanda, Kamchoma, Masewe and many others,” he said.

Tennyson also said that they perform different dances across the country.

All these efforts are made to preserve culture and make people happy.

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