During the months of July to September each year young males and females of pubescent age undergo traditional initiation ceremonies among several cultural groups in the country. While there the young ones are taught many things about adulthood. In this interview written by BOBBY KABANGO and translated by CHEU MITA we seek to find out the purpose of Nazigamba masked-dancer, who is used to raise money for food for the young males and females who are kept in a secluded place usually by the river (kusimba) among the Lhomwes.
According to Cassim Frank a superintendent or overseer at the simba, the dance which is done once the youngsters are being counselled is done mainly for the purpose of raising money to buy food for the youngsters.
And to attract more people to the dances they use a masked-dancer called nazigamba whose dancing antics are a crowd puller.
“As one way of raising money for food we move around the community with nazigamba (a masked traditional dancer) to raise money for the youngsters at the simba,” said Frank.
He says unlike other dancers, this actual dancer has no real name, but is named such because of the attire it adorns (worn rags).
“What this dancer does is what pulls the crowds towards us. If we go on this mission without this dancer we fail to collect as much money,” he says.
Frank explains that the dancing antics used by nazigamba is what attracts the crowds.
“When it dances with the women everyone wishes they could dance with it so we get so much money from people who want to dance with it and those who want to watch the spectacle,” he says.
The dancer usually wiggles his waist in dance and many especially women are attracted to this and will shower it with money.
However, to differentiate nazigamba from other masked-dancers such as the nyau one will find that he travels alone without other dancers and the clothes that he puts on are just costumes and nothing more.
One of the long held traditional symbols of the Chewa people is a dance called nyau. It is more commonly referred to as gule wamkulu (The big dance) although in Mozambique, they call it Vigure. The nyau is usually followed my other masked dancers.
In reality, the nyau is more than a dance. It is a way of life. It has rules that go beyond dancing to cover how people belonging to the Chewa tribe relate to each other and to life around them. In performance, dancers wear masks or make-up. These dancers are referred to as zirombo (animals). This is because to the Chewa people, animals belong to the world of the irrational and spirits.
Now, in Chiradzulu nazigamba just wears his costume for the day. “Anyone can wear nazigamba. The guy wearing it today has a brother at samba right now,” said Frank.
However, interestingly there is a belief that there is a group of people that follow nazigamba to pick up any feathers that may fall from its costume.
“The costume would stick to his skin if someone picks up the feathers and performs a ritual on it. It is always important to be safe because some say the person wearing the costume could run mad and fail to take the costume off,” explained Frank.
As the main dancer in the Maliyeliye, nazigamba is usually hidden from the crowd in a dirty place such as a toilet, before he is unveiled to dance before the crowd.
Anyone can become nazigamba for a day but the person has to have gone through jando (male initiation) to understand the rituals and dances that are done.