Dance is a big part of life across the African continent. It serves many purposes; entertainment, enjoyment, religious rituals, celebrations, some are even used before warriors enter into battle. Whatever the dance is used for, the all share one characteristic – they are all very well structured and require a certain amount of talent to perform. Whilst West African dances are incredibly popular worldwide, dances from around Eastern Africa are less known (by those outside of those cultures), and so we’re here to help try and change that!
It’s highly likely that you’ve seen this dance before but may not have known what it was called.
The Maasai are a Nilotic group living in parts of Kenya and Tanzania. What does Nilotic mean, I hear you ask…
1: of or relating to the Nile or the peoples of the Nile basin
2: of, relating to, or being the languages of the Nilotic people
The Adumu is part of the Eunoto ceremony which marks the transition from boy into fully fledged warrior man. It is an important rite of passage that has been performed for centuries. The Adumu involves the men jumping in the air to drums, chanting and clapping. They jump up with rigid straight backs and their heels aren’t allowed to touch the ground. It’s almost a competition, the higher the jump the louder the cheers from the crowd.
The Somali ethnic group are largely found in Somalia (obviously), but they can also be found throughout the Horn of Africa, including in Ethiopia. It is a Somali clan in Ethiopia that is thought to have first created the Dhaanto dance. The cultural folk dance is often played at celebrations and parties, it is an artistic expression of how the camel moves – how it walks, grasses and socializes with other camels – it is reflected in the dance moves. You see participants bobbing their heads and tapping their feet to the rhythm. It’s a very fun dance to watch.
This dance is performed by the Acholi people of Uganda. The Acholi are a Nilotic (remember this term?) group, they can be found in both South Sudan and Uganda. The Bwola is performed by men only, after an intense training process in which they must learn the steps. The dance used to be performed by warriors upon their victorious return to their village, however in more recent times it is reserved for special, royal occasions such as the swearing in of a new chief, or funerals and weddings. Elaborate headdresses are worn and sticks are used to imitate the spears warriors would’ve once used.
All of these dances are still performed regularly today, and it is important that we continue to document them as they are important cultural histories that should be preserved and protected. And maybe one day, they’ll be incorporated into the mainstream party scene. Imagine people doing the Adumu during the Afrobeats set at a rave, that would be a sight to behold!