The power of dance


By Sam Banda Jnr:

PROMOTING CULTURE— National Dance Troupe performing at BAF last year

Dancing is a skill that has to be valued. More so because it acts like a spice to a performance.

There are all sorts of dances, including traditional dances, which come in different forms.


For instance, the steps performed in Malipenga by the Tonga from Nkhata Bay are different from those associated with Ingoma by the Ngoni.

It is because of the beauty of dance that MacDonald Maluwaya decided to dig deeper and explore its beauty and come up with a book.

He could have managed to embrace other dances but, for a start, he decided to focus on Ingoma.


Titled The Resilient Power of Dance:Ingoma and Identity of the Ngoni of Malawi, Maluwaya presents an analysis of Ingoma dance.

He takes time to reveal that the dance has for more than a century and half maintained the same forms and structure in all the three geographical locations it is performed among the Ngoni.

Significantly, he suggests that Ngoni group identity is typically strengthened in relation to Ingoma.

He said, for instance, when Ngoni are performing Ingoma, or are wearing something that is connected to it— such as wearing an animal skin head band– they are distinguishable from other groups, hence a symbol of identity and unity.

Maluwaya said the book has four main areas of focus, with the first outlining Ingoma as a dance based on four specific forms, meanings and functions.

The four forms are Ligubo, Mngeniso, Hlombe (pronounced Skombe/Shombe) and Chigiyo.

Second, it examines and analyses the dance’s four forms in terms of movement, song texts and music- making in relation to Ngoni cultural history and heritage.

Third, the book discusses the four main characteristic features or values of the Ngoni (beer, meat, women and Ngoma/ Ingoma) in relation to the dance.

And, lastly, it provides a discussion of the resilient power of Ingoma dance and its capacity for identity construction and enhancement of unity among the Ngoni and beyond.

Maluwaya added that, considering that song texts of Ingoma contribute quite a lot to the meaning of the dance in the absence of Si-Ngoni, Chingoni (language of the Ngoni), there is a brief discussion of implications of transmitting the dance in the absence of an indigenous language.

“This book is based on the hypothesis that Ingoma is a symbol of Ngoni identity, their uniting force and that its preservation helps in the maintenance of Ngoni cultural heritage,” he said.

Maluwaya said he was motivated to write the book because of the inadequate knowledge and less awareness about the dances of Malawi amongst most Malawians.

“It is also my major motivation to research, document and dissemination of knowledge about the same. In the course of time in the field of dance, I have realised that Malawi’s abundance and diversity in the domain of dance heritage is paradoxically outweighed by inadequate scholarship and insignificant literature in the field,” he said.

Maluwaya said consequently, there is very little for researchers, the media and the general public to talk about in their various undertakings.

Furthermore, he said most dances of the dances in the country have not been systematically and comprehensively studied, analysed and documented.

“I therefore, would like to complement efforts by the government and other players in raising awareness, preservation and promotion of our dances; thereby, filling this knowledge gap,” Maluwaya said.

His journey in writing this book is traced back to 2013 while on his two-year European tour of study which took him to four countries of Europe including Hungary at the Scientific University of Szeged.

It was whilst there, that he wrote an article titled The Resilience of Traditional Dance as A Repository of Cultural Heritage.

“This article was selected for online publication in an academic platform called Acta Ethnographica Hungarica of June 2015. Consequently, the article caught the attention of Lambert Academic Publishing, my current printer, who in April, 2017 wrote me via e-mail expressing interest in it,” Maluwaya said.

He said he considers this first publication as a project in progress aimed at publishing a comprehensive anthology of dances of Malawi.

“I want to produce reference material on dances of Malawi for readership in all corners of the country and beyond by the greater public, media houses, and academic institutions. Essentially, I want to bring sufficient dance knowledge to the people,” he said.

Maluwaya said the publication is currently printed by a German based company called Lambert Academic Publishing.

“For me to access the book for the local readership in Malawi, I have to place an order. Meanwhile, I have ordered 50 copies that are in the country in readiness for the book launch event scheduled for December 7 2018 at Golden Peacock Hotel in Lilongwe,” Maluwaya said.

He said the book can also be ordered online on

He said, after the launch, he plans to print more copies in the second edition of the publication to be published by a Malawian publisher for circulation to all parts of the country through bookshops, public libraries and academic institutions.

“This will certainly increase the public’s access to the publication among other benefits,” Maluwaya said.

Maluwaya said the book has taken him a year to write and it is his first time to publish a book.

He said the benefits of the book are that it equips readers and others alike with knowledge that reminds them all about the power that dance possesses.

“This kind of knowledge, I call it movement knowledge— a kind of cultural knowledge which teaches us that the art of dance uses movement, costumes and props, among other things, to communicate meaning about human experience,” he said.

While some people just take dance as nothing, Maluwaya said in the book, “the reader will get to appreciate that dance is far more than physical exercise to increase ones physical strength or entertainment to excite the viewer.

It is a powerful medium to express one’s values, thoughts and aspirations about the lives we live and the world in which we live an an embodiment of cultural knowledge,” he said.

He said that another benefit of the book is that it makes one appreciate that dance is integral to the experience of being human.

Maluwaya observes that reading about and participating in other people’s dances enhances feelings of inclusion, connectivity and reduces prejudices against one another.

“This is something that human kind has longed for since time immemorial; the book thus reinforces that spirit,” he said.

Maluwaya also said the book provides dance history of Ingoma and that this information makes the reader understand what the dance means to the Ngoni today in their everyday lives and how it has shaped their lives.

Generally, according to Maluwaya, dance knowledge enables the reader to better understand themselves and the world in which they live.

He maintains that people need to understand that dance is a powerful phenomenon that must be given the appropriate attention both as an art form, an academic discipline and heritage by all of us.

“It is high time we adopted a positive mindset towards dance by putting our efforts together to ensure its preservation, development and promotion alongside other arts disciplines,” he said.

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