Music and Rite. Malawian Ritual Dances. Dance Performances: Gule Wankulu and Chinamwali
Venice, Island of San Giorgio Maggiore
22 – 23 OCTOBER 2018
VENICE, CA’ FOSCARI UNIVERSITY
AND ISLAND OF SAN GIORGIO MAGGIORE
“Music and Rite” is a series of seminars focused on the relationship between music and the sacred sphere, promoted by the Intercultural Institute of Comparative Music Studies in collaboration with Ca’ Foscari University, Venice. This year the seminar is curated by Giorgio Adamo and Moya Aliya Malamusi, a musician from Malawi and lecturer at the University of Vienna. For the fourth edition of the seminars,
ten musicians and dancers, five women and five men from the same village in the district of Blantyre (Malawi), have been invited to San Giorgio re-enact two rituals related to the cult of the dead and female
initiation, which are still practiced in their community.
The Gule Wankulu (Great Mask Dance) is considered to be one of the most important cultural expressions of the Chewa, the largest ethnic-linguistic group in Malawi, also present in some areas of Mozambique and Zambia. Included in the UNESCO list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, this dance belongs to the rituals of Nyau secret societies, mainly associated with the cult of the dead, still widely practiced for its original purposes. The term Chinamwali, on the other hand, refers to a female initiation ritual and to the songs and dances characterising it. Despite the efforts at dissuasion by Christian churches, the ritual is still practiced in many villages as preparation for adult life and marriage.