Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa, is a country in the southern region of Africa. It is widely known for the beautiful Lake Malawi, the many tourist attractions and the warm and friendly people. Malawi has 8 distinct tribes namely, the Chewa, Yao, Tumbuka, Lhomwe, Sena, Ngonde, Ngoni, and Tonga. My father is Tumbuka, while my mother is Ngoni. But for today’s prompt, I wanted to share with you about Vimbuza, a dance of healing that is performed by Tumbukas.
The Tumbuka people are found in the northern region of the country. Their language is known as chitumbuka, their staple meal is kondowole, a think porridge from cassava flour. Although they are one of the smallest tribes by population, they are widely known for having a large portion of their tribe being educated. One of the distinct aspects of the culture is the vimbuza dance which is known to heal a lot of mental illnesses.
Vimbuza goes back as early as the 19th century when it was developed as a way to heal those that had traumatic experiences due to oppression. Although Christian missionaries tried desperately to end it and was forbidden, people still performed it. It is believed that it is a way of people to express their mental illnesses in a way that the society would understand.
A person who undergoes this is one possessed by the vimbuza spirits, or demonic spirits. Other healers have also said that each person is born with vimuza, however they become significant when nyanga has attacked them. Nyanga is known as a witchcraft power that sometimes can claim ones life. Thus, the vimbuza will activate to fight off the nyanga which leads to one falling seriously ill.
Signs of vimbuza are hallucinations, bad dreams, migraines just to memtion a few which are often not healed by using hospital medication. When one falls ill, they are taken to a healer, usually is someone that had also suffered from vimbuza and healed. Most healers are men.
They are taken to their tempiri, a village house which offers accommodation to the patients. One can stay there for a week or even a month until the spirits leave ones body. The spirits are common in women and children.
The vimbuza dance involves the healer beating ng’oma (drums of affliction), while the patient dances. They are surrounded by women and children from the village who help by clapping their hands and singing some of the vimbuza songs.
During this time, the spirit takes over the personality of the person due to being heated by the ng’oma. When they dance, it is believed that the spirits leave the body and one gets better after.
One could say that vimbuza dancing is therapy. A form of dancing that makes the mind right. Although this dance is still performed in many villages around the north, it is still not accepted by Christians and they have consistently discouraged it.
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