The African Dance - Mpogo
One of the topics that keep calling me to write about within the African spirituality sphere:
A dance called Mpogo in the ZCC church, founded in South Africa,. There are two different kinds of this dance. One called mukhukhu from a sister church, and anyone who has been part of this dance, or has observed it, will be able to note this;
1. The dance/ song is quite unique on many levels. It is usually performed at specific times and for specific reasons, and the kind of energy it invokes is unmatched by any other dance/ song. It is not found in any other Christian church except perhaps some variations of these churches that have hidden African traditions in their practices. The same way we see Africans did with Santeria is Cuba, fusing African systems such as Ifa and the Yoruba systems into the Christian church so as to continue practicing their traditional ways of life and spiritual systems without persecution. I'm convinced the same happened with the ZCC churches and others with similar practices not found in other Christian churches.
2. The dance is similar to many other dances across Africa. Listening to the songs of the Maasai (Kenya) and Hazhabe (Tanzania) and baLodzi (Zambia), I can pick up the same sounds; same dance movements and the same 'hair raising' energy invoked by the dances.
This dance/song does not include any singing, or if it does it is very minimal. The dancers move to sounds made in the throat area that reverberate in the chest. a variation of 'humming' with different tones. A rhythm is formed and this is picked up the other people in the group. Sometimes the sound is created on the spot by the person leading the dance. The Bapedi of Limpopo in South Africa have a dance called dinaka and kiba; and another dance we call 'kosha ya malopo', performed by traditional healers. All these are songs with powerful energy used for various reasons.
3. The most notable thing here is this - for the student of the path of spirituality the sound AUM is very familiar. This sound, is the very sound that is created by the humming sound created during these "mpogo" dances across the continent. It would be great for me to know what these dances are called individually across the continent but for now I shall refer to them as variations of mpogo. Having been part of mpogo and dinaka a few times, and witnessed a few 'dikosha tsa malopo' (traditional healer's songs); I recognize the AUM sound. The Shri sound, and other sounds associated with the tree of life are in-bedded within the sounds made during these dances. The "sounds of creation"
Is it a surprise that these sounds of creation are found in African songs that have been performed for centuries? Spirituality has always been the way of life for Africans. It was not a thing to be studied by the average person. They lived it and therefore had no need to study it in order to understand it
4. Other similarities between the dance/songs is the wearing of ankle rattles, cow horns on the head, animal tails and sometimes blowing horns. For a Christian church to have this kind of a dance, it makes the origin of the dance very clear. These are dances performed for a variety of purposes including healing, mourning and rain rituals. People with leg problems for example are sometimes "prescribed" this dance. You'll see them at the beginning of the dance moving slowly and reluctantly due to pain and being cautious not to cause more pain, but as the dance becomes intense, you'll see ho vigorously they start to dance as if the pain has miraculously disappeared.
Our practices have not been eroded, they have been practiced even among the people who were forced to abandon their ways and labeled evil for practicing them. They used ingenuous ways to continue practicing them because they knew that if you totally lose your practices and rituals, you will lose your identity completely.
Other examples of this infusions include: consulting (a prophet) in the same way one would consult a traditional healer. The difference is that is it done in the church.
Being prescribed herbal and traditional remedies. Drinking, steaming, bathing, purging etc....
Wearing thread around the waist and other parts of the body in the same way we wear African beads and thread. From birth to death ceremonies and many others. The similarities are very visible.
May we bring our rituals, our ceremonies, our practices and essentially our ways of life back to their rightful positions because only then will we know what truly is to be an African!