As a tradition, Mtendere Village holds a large ceremony to welcome new visitors to Mtendere. (This was described in a previous post: “Our first visit to Mtendere”) Everyone at Mtendere takes a part in the dancing, singing, and dramatic interpretations of this ceremony. When a new group needed to be welcomed on Friday, I was honored to be asked to play the role of the chief of Mtendere Village.
The chiefs costume has skirt and hat made from animal skins, the Malawian flag as a shirt, a drinking gourd for honey, and white corn flour spread on the arms and face. During the ceremony, I was introduced as the chief of Malawi and triumphantly walked in as I gave the people of Mtendere a reassuring smile. after being seated on an animal skin, the guide lead the children in with a song to bring gifts to the chief. As each child gave their gift, I accepted and they danced in a circle around me.
After accepting the gifts, I joined the guide in a song. The guide played an instrument called the karimba, which has tuned metal pieces and a resonating gourd. The intrument is played by plucking the metal pieces with the thumbs. While the guide played the karimba, I played a shaker and sang.
The chief also plays another role during the welcoming ceremony. When a snake, representing HIV/AIDS, bites people, the chief is one person who is bit. This is to show that if you are not careful, HIV/AIDS can strike anyone, even the chief.
In preparing for and participating in the welcoming ceremony, I learned so much about the culture in Malawi. It was an honor to participate; I will never forget this experience.
Filed under: Kevin