A look at Indlamu, the famous Zulu war dance

Ama Nunoo April 15, 2021
Zulu dance, Indlamu. Image via YouTube/AFTV

South Africa‘s largest ethnic group, the Zulu, is the subject of a lot of anthropological and historical interest as well as the source of African pride for those on the continent and out. The Zulu have a rich cultural history that they take pride in. Indlamu, the dance that inspired Zulu warriors during the Anglo-Zulu wars, is one of the most famous dances on the continent.

The Indlamu dance was derived from the war dances of amabutho (warriors) and it was mainly used to motivate the men before they embarked on their long marches into battles barefoot.

The Zulu are also said to be part of the Bantu people who migrated south during what is called the great Bantu Migration sometime after the 2nd century C. E., with the Nguni people being their ancestors.

The dance though predominantly associated with the Zulu stems from the Nguni and it mimics the Zulu battles dating back to the 17th century. It can be danced by men of all ages.

The most prominent characteristic of the dance is the stomping of feet followed by loud sounds amid heavy izigubhu or drums. The whole ritual dance brings about group solidarity while instilling the traditions of the community in the younger ones.

Indlamu is performed at present-day Zulu functions and ceremonies such as childbirth, coming of age initiations, lobola (bride price ceremony), weddings and inaugurations of kings, victories and numerous traditional festivals as well as after harvesting. According to Bam, it is an exhibition of physical strength and mastery of weapons in mock combats.  

It is traditionally performed by two or more dancers or individuals who are decked out in full traditional warrior gear such as amabheshu (loin skins) and embellished with traditional accessories, including head-rings, ceremonial belts, ankle rattles, shields, and weapons like knobkerries and spears.

All the men and boys have to move with specific timing and coordination while maintaining an uncompromised posture.

According to Fringearts, Indlamu has a routine in which the dancers mirror one another simultaneously. The dancers begin by forming a straight line and then lifting one leg up in the air and stomping it down, throwing dust in the air which also sends shudders through the feet on onlookers.

The stomps are accompanied by hand gestures following the other. The dancers repeat similar moves while changing the legs and then lifting one leg in the air and falling flat on their backs.

The Indlamu dance resembles that of Ingoma, usually an all-female ceremonial dance with high kicking motions. However, the former is more controlled and calculated as it is meant to show off muscular strength. This is seen in the movement of the weapons used during the dance to stab ‘imaginary enemies’ as would have been done during the war.

Last Edited by:Francis Akhalbey Updated: April 15, 2021


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