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History Of Arts And Culture: Dance


Part One

OBJECTIVES: We should be able to

  1. a) identify dance ceremonies from Southern Africa

Dance ceremonies from Southern Africa

Countries that make Southern Africa are : Zimbabwe, Angola,Botswana,Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique ,South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Madagascar. Madagascar is an island in Southern Africa. An Island is a country that is completely surrounded by water. Zimbabwe is a landlocked country. It is completely surrounded by land(other countries)

African traditions believe in ancestral spirit worshipping. They believe that they can talk to God through ancestral spirits. During the ceremonies, the elders ask for guidance , healing and help from God through their long departed ancestors. In Zimbabwe they perform a rain making ceremony called  Mukwerera. Mukwerera is an important rain making ceremony where people ask for rain.The Ndebele and the Zulu of south Africa call their rain making ceremony Indlamu.

During the rain making ceremonies people sing and dance to invoke the spirit of the ancestors. The spirit would then possess the spirit medium or homwe. The spirit medium or homwe/ isikwama then falls into a trance. From then on the people would say what they need through the spirit mediums.


In Swaziland the Emaswati perform sacred ceremonies such as Incwala / first fruits ceremony. This ceremony is performed by males who gather at the Royal kraal where they are joined by the king for traditional dancing. Reed dance  or Umhlanga is a sacred ceremony which is also performed in Swaziland where the king leads in the activities.


Ancestral worshipping is an integral part in the culture of the people of Botswana. The Setswana people perform a festival known as Letsatsi la Ngwao where they commemorate important events such as the coming of the first rains.

Ritual activities.

Southern African traditions perform different ritual ceremonies such as chief installations puberty rites and bringing back the spirit of the dead ceremonies. Puberty rites are ceremonies that mark the important stage of adolescence. The rites are held for both boys and girls. Boys are prepared to take up roles of adult responsibilities. They are circumcised. Girls are prepared for marriage. Virginity is tested and preserved at these ceremonies. Music and dance are major activities of the initiates.


In Namibia a ceremony called Olufuko is held where girls are prepared for womanhood and marriage.

The Ovakwanyama people of Namibia celebrate the birth of twins by holding a ritual ceremony called Oshiwambo. Women and children cheerfully sing and dance at the ceremony. The father , mother and the newly born twins go through a spiritual cleansing ceremony. The ceremony is performed while the people are wearing their traditional attire.


In Zimbabwe young girls from the Venda culture and some other cultures are taken for Chinamwari where they are prepared for marriage and virginity is tested.


The Shangani , Chokwe, sena, Makua, and Chopi  conduct rituals for herbal healing and rites of passage.People gather at funerals to hold night vigils. They also gather after the person has long been buried.


The eighteen tribes in Madagascar perform dances at different ritual activities. People gather at funerals, pilgrimage, big family gatherings and royal baths. Famadihana or traditional body turning ceremony is performed for returning a deceased person’s body for burials.


People in Malawi perform a ceremony called Gule Wamkulu dance ceremonies.These ceremonies have rituals and dances that show and celebrate the physical abilities of the Chewa men.Sexual initiation rites are also performed. Dance ceremonies in Malawi tribe specific. They differ from one group to another.

Social activities

In Southern African traditions, events of the life cycle include celebrations and commemorations. People dance at different social activities. They dance at

  1. a) traditional marriage ceremonies
  2. b) birth

c)naming ceremonies

  1. d) victories and achievements
  2. e) funerals

Traditional dances are mainly performed for entertainment at

  1. a) weddings
  2. b) graduation and award winning ceremonies
  3. c) welcoming dignitaries especially presidents of countries.

There are specific dance moves that celebrate love , victory , unity , war and other important events

Socially the Namibian people perform Oshiwambo dance  to celebrate the traditional marriage union of the newly weds.

In Angola they perform Kizomba.Kizomba is a celebration is the cultural identity dance of the Angolans.

Other celebration dances in Angola are Kilapanga, Semba and Soca.

The Chewa in Zambia perform Nyau dance for entertainment at cultural festivals and social gatherings.

The Zezuru  people in Zimbabwe in the areas of Murewa, Uzumba Maramba and Pfungwe in Mashonaland East popularised Mbende or Jerusarema dance. The dance celebrates fertility.


1 Name any five countries found in Southern Africa.

2 Which of the countries found in Southern Africa is an Island?

3 What is an island?

4 What is the name of the ceremony held by the Ovakwanyama to celebrate the birth of twins?

5 Which dance is the cultural identity for

  1. a) Angolans
  2. b) Zimbabweans

6 Nyau dance is perfomed by the ——- of Zambia

7 What is Incwala?

8 What is Chinamwari?

9 A ritual ceremony for preparing young boys and girls to take up adult responsibility is called ………

9 Give any one thing done to boys during the puberty rites.

10 Who directs or controls the Umhlanga or reed dance?

Complete the following table

Religious activity Ritual activity Social activity
a) Umhlanga or reed dance famadihana Jerusarema or mbende
b) b) b)

Nyau dance ,Kizomba dance, oshiwambo dance, Gule Wamkulu, Olufuko,Mukwerera,Chinamwari,indlamu




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