Good people, winter is nearly over and summer is almost here.
Oh! What a switchover we have in the air.
This is a season of enjoying the bounty harvest, the season men and women with dance moves meet to enjoy the finest dances from their cultural background.
Who would not spare a thought for intervillage malipenga dance festivals that make weekends in the sweltering shoreline districts of Karonga and Nkhata Bay hotter and hotter?
Who would not spare some time for the rare mganda and chimtali dance competitions that separate pretenders from the real villagers in the central districts of Lilongwe, Kasungu, Mchinji and Dedza.
The season of cultural festival is already here.
In fact, the season set aside to celebrate everything good about various ethnic groups’ unique cultural heritage gets off to a scintillating start with the return of Umtheto Cultural Festival at the picturesque bottom of Hora Mountain in Mzimba.
This is the time nearly everyone making the pilgrimage to Hora, the central and raised place in the area inhabited by the descendants of Zwangendaba, wishes they were Ngonis.
The festival which got off to a slow start at Hora on Thursday is a time to celebrate the niceness of Ngoni way of life at a time many folk practices are being eroded and discarded in the name of modernity.
Yet modernisation does not total assimilation of western culture.
Make a trip to Hora for the climax of Umtheto this weekend, you will quickly learn a great deal of beautiful things about the Malawian way of life.
Some of things that meet the eye are culture warriors garbed in animal skins from head to foot, an array of traditional brews awaiting devout imbibers. pots of meats that will make any mouth salivate with ease, the men and women enjoying every moment as they go up and down the Hora and the impis dancing ingoma at the foot of the mountain. .
You have been told that the Ngonis have four pillars that are unassailable–booze, meat, ingoma and sex.
However, the time in the shadow of Hora is never a time to forget because of the encounters with Ngonis, both young and old, who proudly showcase their cultural dances, speak in their mother tongues from Zululand in South Africa and recount their history before and the historic mass exodus triggered by Shaka Zulu’s ruthless wars on opposing camps.
It is amazing that all this is happening just when it is being said that Ngoni culture is dead.
The language and valour of the warlike tribe which settled in Mzimba may be gone, but thousands who endure the rough ride to Hora every year is a testimony that a cadre of proud Ngonis are uniting and rising up to defend, conserve and promote the rich cultural heritage that aptly define them amid deepening globalisation.
This is why no cultural group must allow their history and unique way of life to be hijacked or dwarfed by opportunists, especially politicians and clergy people who will stop at nothing when it comes to glorifying their selfish interests that only succeed to divide people with a passion for dying cultures.
Talking about cultural events, we are informed that the Tongas from Nkhata Bay and Nkhotakota met in Lilongwe last Sunday to assert their space in the country’s cultural fabric.
What a takeover it was when the time-honoured Paka Town Band from Chintheche on the northern shores of Lake Malawi invaded the capital to lead proud Tongas in a dance of cultural supremacy.
It is encouraging that more and more people are waking up to do what the band has always been doing for many years—showing the world that there is more to Tonga way of life than just fishing.
This is why I cannot wait for August 26 when the Tonga heritage association will be officially launched.n