A few days ago, me and the girls were volunteering at the local preschool. I was doing an activity inside and Zara one outside, when she shrieked. I missed it, apparently a scary figure in a scary mask had just passed by.
It was “The Culture Man,” the preschool teacher said. A man who does traditional dances and singing and healing.
“Will he be back?” Zara had asked. The teacher wasn’t sure. But said he would ask him.
I was bummed that I missed the pass-by and photo opp. The teacher reassured me that he would try to arrange for him to pass by again, in full Culture Man garb.
I think the preschool teacher had really just asked for (or at least intended to ask for) another simple walk by. But what we got was the full Culture experience.
The Culture Man (we don’t know exactly what he goes by, but that is the pre-school teacher translation) came back two days later. With his costume. And his mask. And his drummers. And an entourage of singers who I think were maybe just the village neighbors to the preschool who came out to participate and sing/clap along.
We are not sure exactly what we saw in terms of meaning and symbolism. The figure in hair and mask and costume (and high falsetto voice) was clearly portraying a woman. And it was the women who danced in the inner circle.
Interestingly, one of the people next to me who I kept asking questions to admitted that the song-dance was not in the local Loxi language, but in one of the other 72 (!!!) languages in Zambia. So he could make out some but not all of it.
Sometimes You Gotta Shake, Sometimes You Gotta Shimmy…with Drunk Grandmothers
It was only a matter of time until we were going to be summoned to the middle of the dancing circle. We were dragged to the center of the dance circle not by Culture Man, but by an inebriated grandmother who was impressive in her shaking & shimmying.
She dragged me out there.
She grabbed Zara out there.
Vivi, of course, needed no encouragement nor formal invitation to do her culturally appropriate (in this context) twerking.
The performance went on for quite a while. And the drunk grandmother became more and more aggressive her her dragging us to dance and in her hugs and kisses.
So we eventually pushed on towards home, to wash off the day’s dust/mud/sweat, eat dinner, sit around the campfire and admire the stars (or in my kids case, to get home and immediately proceed to the same shows they have already watched 20 times before!)
It was a memorable local experience! One in which we got to be both spectator and stars at the same time!