BY Ama Nunoo, 10:30am February 05, 2020,

A look at Bwola, the royal dance in Uganda


The Bwola dance of the Acholi people of Uganda is said to be a royal dance.  It is originally performed when a new chief is installed or at royal functions.

Bwola is also reserved for other dignitaries like political leaders, elders, religious leaders to honour and welcome them at functions.

In recent times, Bwola is performed at funerals of royals, weddings and other important functions among the Acholi.

For instance, the dance is performed when a clan leader or elder dies at home. The family deems it an honour to have the Bwola dance to pay their last respects to the deceased.

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Photo: YouTube

So, in the procession to the burial grounds, the dancers take the lead before the body.

Generally, Bwola is a fun and entertaining dance that comes with cultural freshness. It can easily be used as welcome dance for dignitaries at functions.

The dancers will dance gracefully before the distinguished guest and usher them to their seat while performing. Even when seated the dance goes on for a while to entertain the royal guests.

At weddings, this unique dance is “always performed by a bunch of traditional dancers who entertain guests leaping, wiggling and pulling moves no ‘new skool’ dancers will easily match.”

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Photo: wikimedia

The people of Acholi bond over the dance and to them it reinforces marriages and entertains the guests as well.

Some call it the “21st Century break dance performed in Uganda where traditional meets popular in a dance matrimony.”

The dancers do not take dance lightly, their clothes must command attention. It is a pillar of the Acholi culture. It portrays their fierce “warrior skills.” 

Africans are generally brave people and mostly ready to attack and face their enemy regardless of how the opposition looks. Bwola is a celebration of all that and more. In short Bwola shows how “people confronted their enemies – with unbridled brevity.”

Both men and women perform Bwola.

“The men performing this dance carry small drums in their left hands while holding small sticks they use the beat the drums to produce a very beautiful acoustic sound that the women shake their long necks and chests to, while moving forward and backwards.

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Photo: View Uganda

“The men too will perform footwork while beating their small drums, and dancing to the beautiful sounds coming from them.

“During the Bwola dance, a big drum literally known as min bul is beaten to produce a very beautiful sound while a medium size drum is also used to produce its own sound along  with the tiny drums that the men hold in their left hand to make the dance more colorful.”

The men wear ostrich feathers on their heads that depict royalty and leopard or any other animal skin on their waists and backs. Some of the feathers are worn on their arms as well.

The women wear waist beads and fold cloth into little pleats which is also tied around the waist. They wear a blouse, at times a bra or anything to cover their bust leaving their waists open.

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Photo: Uganda Radio Network

“Voluptuous, traditional sounds sear through as dancers leap and jump and fashionably wobble on the ground like a well-choreographed dance troupe.

“They make a beeline and file and dance leaning towards the instrumentation usually played by someone in the middle.”

Next time you are in Uganda, visit the Acholi people and witness the graceful royal Bwola dance.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: February 5, 2020


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