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Computer Projekt in Malawi» Blogarchiv » Gule Wamkulu - the big dance

Gule Wamkulu - the big dance

Unser letzter Ausflug mit KK, unserem Pickup den wir bald verkaufen, machten wir heute Nachmittag in ein Village nicht weit von unserem Projekt in Area 23. Dort wird bald ein neuer Chief (bei uns würde man ihn Bürgermeister nennen) initiiert. Daher laufen die Vorbereitungen schon auf Hochtouren. Teil der Vorbereitung auf dieses große Erreignis ist der traditionelle Tanz - Gule Wamkulu - der als spirituelle Vorbereitung für den neuen Chief, nun täglich getanzt wird.

Es war sehr interessant und wir hatten die Möglichkeit, für einen Nachmittag ganz tief in die Kultur der Chewa einzutauchen.

euer Thomas

Mehr zum “großen Tanz” hier auf Englisch:

Perhaps the oldest form of music and dance in Malawi comes from the Gule Wamkulu religion (Gule Wamkulu basically means “the big dance”). Gule Wamkulu literally translated “the big dance” is both a secret cult and ritual dance practiced among the Chewa people living in Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique. It is performed by members of the Nyau brotherhood, which is a secret society of initiated Chewa men. The Nyau at some time believed that they could communicate with the world of the dead or spirits; this act was called ‘pemphero lalikulu‘. Within the Chewa’s traditional matrilineal society, husbands played a rather marginal role so that the Nyau offered a means to establish some kind of counterweight and solidarity among men of various villages. Nyau members are responsible for the initiation of young men into adulthood, and the performance of the Gule Wamkulu at the end of the initiation procedure is done to celebrate the young men’s integration into adult society. There are over 150 Gule Wamkulu characters, each with a specific story and purpose.

Gule Wamkulu is performed in the season following the harvest in July, accompanying initiation ceremonies but also weddings, funerals, and the installation or the death of a chief. On this occasion, the Nyau dancers wear costumes and masks made of wood and straw, representing a great variety of characters, such as wild animals, spirits of the dead, slave traders, British colonialists, white missionaries as well as more recent figures such as the honda or the helicopter.

Each of these figures plays a particular, often evil, character representing certain forms of misbehavior in order to teach moral and social values to the audience. These figures perform dances and artistic movements with extraordinary energy, partly entertaining and partly scaring the audience as representatives of the world of the spirits and the dead. Mask carvers may either be professional or occasional artisans.

There is evidence that Gule Wamkulu existed during the great Chewa Empire of the 17th century. Despite the efforts of Christian missionaries to ban this practice in Chewa communities, it managed to survive under British colonial rule by adopting some aspects of Christianity. Nowadays, even if the matrilineal system has lost its social significance, Nyau societies, and with it Gule Wamkulu, are still very much alive and Chewa men tend to be both members of a Christian church and a Nyau society.


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