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Ubuntu: ngihawukele thonga lami

From an early age, children in my village learn to sing and dance — music is at the heart of Zulu culture. I seriously haven’t seen or heard one kid who doesn’t have rhythm or a pretty voice.

The children pick up traditional songs and dance from their families and the community and then practice them in their arts and culture class at school.

This traditional dance, ngihawukele thonga lami, is about the ancestors (thonga lami; our ancestors). This song and dance is specific to an isangoma,  which is the Zulu equivalent of a fortune teller.

Each isangoma in Zulu culture has a different song and dance, specific to his or her practice. When the isangomas gather together, they individually sing their songs. This song is an isangoma song from my community that the children know by association.

Isangomas place sea shells into a bag, shake it, throw the shells out, then use a stick to move the shells and talk about the positions. Then they repeat to confirm. The position of the shells tells a person about their life/future.

Watch grade 3s perform the dance and song with instruments they made themselves out of old cans and bottle caps! I couldn’t stop smiling when they performed it for me:

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