As summer is approaching, fun seekers should brace for a busy itinerary.
Lake of Stars and Sand Music Festival are some of the offerings for the urban community.
For the rural people along the lakeshores of Karonga and Nkhata Bay, malipengafestivals are a common sight.
At Usisya, a hard-to-reach destination in Nkhata Bay, the festival will take place between August 15 and 21, and it promises to be full of fun.
“We would like you people from town to come and see how we entertain ourselves,” one of the organisers, Edson Chirwa, told me.
It is not just Chirwa who invited me to the festival when I visited Usisya recently.
Acting Senior Chief M’bwana is also ecstatic about the event.
“This is our biggest festival here at Usisya. People are itching for this day,” he said.
The event is held during dry season to celebrate culture and provide entertainment to the people.
“In August, we find ourselves idle since it’s after harvest. We usually do not have work to do in our fields. This is also during holiday when schools have closed. We conduct these dances to keep us busy,” said Chirwa.
M’bwana, however, noted that some people take advantage of the event to engage in illicit behaviours.
He said chiefs have set up bylaws to make sure that the event takes place orderly.
“We will fine any person caught or reported to be involved in illicit behaviours such as sexual immorality,” he said.
The festival is a yearly event involving four village heads of Chiwisi, Kawanda, Banda and Usisya Trading Centre.
It is held in all these areas on rotational basis. This year it will take place at Usisya.
The event will pool together Fayala Boma, Tilamu Boma, Russia Boma, Engine Boma and Hygiene Smart Boma.
It is believed that during World War One, local men from Nkhata Bay enlisted alongside British officers to fight in the war.
After the war ended, however, they returned to their villages well polished in the art of performing military parades and participating in military bands.
Today, when you observe the malipenga dance, its military origins are evident.
It is a both thrilling and exciting dance to watch and you are most likely to encounter it at special cultural events in Malawi as well as in the Northern part of the country where it all began.
In malipenga, Boma is a group of dancers from a particular area.
It is also used to denote a place where the dancers practice or hold their dances.
A malipenga group is known as a Boma.
Each Boma has its own administrative structure. The success of the Boma is the pride of the whole village.
The dance is performed for the entertainment on various occasions.
Malipenga is said to have originated in imitations of military drills, substituting singing horns—kazoo like instruments—for military brass instruments.
Performed by Tonga men and boys, malipeng ainvolves competitive teams organised in a quasi-military hierarchy—titles include ‘sergeant’, ‘captain’, and ‘king’ as well as ‘doctor’ and ‘nurse’—dancing in rows and columns and wearing European costumes.
Rather than simply viewing it as a product of colonialism, malipenga should be understood in terms of the dynamic nature of ngoma traditions.
This is an ongoing cultural feature that has survived the disruptions of the colonial period, according to Putting Colonialism into Perspective: Cultural History and the Case of Malipenga Mgoma in Malawi by Lisa Gilman, an essay included in Mashindano! Competitive Music Performance in East Africa.
Malipenga started in Nkhata Bay and spread all over the Northern Region of Malawi.
In the Central Region, mganda, which is a varient of malipenga, is performed in Kasungu, Nkhotakota, Salima, Ntchisi, Dowa and Lilongwe.