There is a marked hatred between the Tonga and dirt. A story is told of how their hatred goes to the point of stopping a speeding car to caution the driver to slow down for causing dust!
While this might be a mere stereotype towards the lakeshore tribe in Nkhata Bay, natives are proud to be associated with smartness.
“Ours is not a dirty culture,” says Lucius Chirwa, Chilimika Dance Group leader at Chintheche.
Chilimika dance is known to instil the spirit of smartness through its dancing styles.
Chilimika, meaning year, is performed by the young Tonga women in the district. It is, actually, an imitation of malipenga which is mostly performed by men.
Dancers’ steps, in response to the drumbeat, seem effortless and smart such that the dance fits well with decent dressing.
A handkerchief in their hands—possibly, to dust their shoes of dirt, or wipe sweat off their faces—exposes their quest for smartness.
At each New Year’s Day, young men and women congregate at the village arena, known as Boma, to entertain the village with chilimika.
“Chilimika enhances cleanliness. We first of all go to the fields in the morning. But it’s in the afternoon, after cleaning up, that we go for practices.
“We also encourage the youth just joining us to be neat and tidy because chilimika is not a dirt dance; it’s about cleanliness,” explains Chirwa.
He says dressing and smartness are part of the criteria used during traditional dance competitions to crown the best group in the district.
“Those who are smart score more points and sometimes people cheer more the group that is smart,” he says.
As the country is experiencing technological advancement, with the youth at the centre of it, cultural erosion has been an inevitable side effect.
On the contrary, chilimika continues to enjoy youth participation as its main players.
“We have both adults and the youth in our group. We encourage the youth to join us in keeping our traditions.
“If we retire from dancing, they are the ones to keep our heritage,” says Chirwa who is in his 40s.
There are, however, beliefs that the dance promotes immoral behaviour among the youth because some groups perform during the night.
But Chirwa is quick to dispel such talks, saying:
“We only dance during the day. We don’t dance at night for fear of encouraging unfaithfulness and immoral behaviour.