The Zulu, South Africa’s largest ethnic group, is a source of anthropological and historical interest as well as African pride for those on and off the continent. The Zulu people are proud of their rich cultural heritage. One of the most well-known dances on the continent is Indlamu, which Zulu warriors influenced during the Anglo-Zulu wars.
Origin of Indlamu
The Indlamu dance was derived from the war dances of amabutho (warriors) and was primarily used to inspire men before they marched barefoot into battles. Though primarily associated with the Zulu, the dance originates with the Nguni and is based on Zulu battles from the 17th century. It is a dance that men of all ages can perform.
The Zulu are also said to be descendants of the Bantu people, who migrated south during the Great Bantu Migration around the 2nd century C. E., with the Nguni people as their ancestors.
What Happens During Indlamu?
It is typically performed by two or more dancers or individuals dressed in traditional warrior attire such as amabheshu (loin skins) and adorned with traditional accessories such as head-rings, ceremonial belts, ankle rattles, shields, and arms such as knobkerries and spears.
During the dance, all boys and men must move with precise timing and coordination while maintaining an unaffected stance.
Childbirth, coming of age initiations, lobola (bride price ceremony), marriages and inaugurations of kings, victories, and various traditional festivals and after harvesting is all occasions where Indlamu is performed. It is an exhibition of physical strength and arm superiority in mock combats, according to Bam.
Also, Indlamu has a routine in which the dancers mirror each other at the same time. The dancers start by forming a straight line and then lifting one leg in the air and stomping it down, throwing dust into the air and sending onlookers’ feet shivering. Hand gestures accompany the stomps. The dancers repeat the same moves while changing legs, lifting one leg in the air, and then falling flat on their backs.
Indlamu dances are similar to Ingoma dances, which are typically all-female ritual dances with high kicking movements. On the other hand, the former is more regulated and measured because it is intended to demonstrate muscular strength. This is seen in the action of the arms used during the dance to stab ‘imaginary enemies’ as would have been done during the battle.
When such great cultures survive to date, it shows how much Africans value and are proud of their roots. Being a part of one’s culture is one thing while preserving it is another. Ironically, Europeans can’t seem to have enough of African cultures. As in most cases, during holidays, they visit the continent hoping to be a part of the great African experience. Some of them even join in, for instance, the dances, as they can’t resist.