People & Culture

‘African time’

It’s been a long-held belief among bemused westerners that when you enter the African time zone you switch to ‘African time’.

African time

African time

In this video… Caroline and Joyce talk about cultural differences when arranging a time to meet.

It’s not so much the time difference they’re talking about, when you cross latitudes and longitudes, as the cultural difference you encounter.

'African time’ could be defined as quite a bit later than when you expected it to be. Westerners fix to meet African people, and whereas the Westerners arrive on time, Africans are, shall we say, not quite so punctual.

Times are changing

As more foreigners invest in Zambia, particularly the Chinese, this relaxed attitude to time may have to change with modern business practices.

But for now, at least, friends Caroline and Joyce abide by their traditional ‘African time’ habit. Somehow, it fits with their cool and relaxed sense of well-being.

Traditional dancing

Traditional dancing

In this video…children from SOS Children’s Village, Lilongwe, Malawi, show off their music and dance talents.

Music & dancing

Song plays a major part in Malawian culture. Two of the most popular forms of music are Christian spiritual songs (often performed without any instrumental accompaniment) and soft reggae.

However, a wider range of music can be heard at the modern music festivals of Lilongwe and Blantyre.

Dance is also integral to most celebrations and certain festivals and dances reflect older parts of Malawian culture or the country's history.

For example, the Nkhata Bay district, along the northern shore of Lake Malawi, is famous for Malinpenga dance, stemming from colonial times.

Malinpenga dance originated when the local Tonga people watched the military drills of their colonial British rulers. Finding the drills amusing, the Tonga donned parts of the British uniform and mimicked the soldiers with exaggerated dance movements and horns to imitate the military brass bands.

A tribal mask

Summoning the spirits

One of the oldest forms of music and dance is the Gule Wamkulu, which basically means ‘the great dance’.

Following traditional beliefs, Gule dancers dress in ragged clothes, animal skins and masks to summon the spirits of animals or dead relatives.

They dance to a drummer and there are many Gule characters or ‘beasts’ which each have a specific story or lesson to teach us. See Dance in Mozambique where the Gule Wamkulu is performed.