Nzango Artist Residency

Based in Mozambique 🇲🇿


Nyau Dance

 “This song says maipose tulugare which means: “Queen, come out”. The people are asking the Queen to come out.”

“The Queen asks: “What war is this?”
“And the people reply: “You invited her”.

“And the Queen asks: “What battle are you fighting? What line of combat are you entering?” The group of warriors then sets off armed for war. The song speaks of the Queen’s farewell. She goes out to hear what’s happening outside.”

“Then the Queen replies: “What war is going on out there?” She continues: waimemesa maipose. It means that the Queen is inviting the people to go to war. When they’re singing like that, it’s because the Queen has to leave when there’s a war. So she leaves. This song is an explanation of the fight.”

“Then she replies: “They’re going to fight”.
“The group of warriors then forms up and goes into battle. That’s the farewell.”



1 Videos

Nyau Leader Interview

Good afternoon once again, first we would like to thank you again for opening the doors of your community to us.
Thank you. My name is Regêncio Ernesto.
So Mr. Ernesto, we wanted to know if you can explain a little bit the history of this Nyau dance, how long has it existed? Where do you dance? Who can dance? A little bit of the history of dance.
Here we speaks XiChewa, it’s not Portuguese. This tradition is established according to the local language which is Chewa. So, they like Tshwa give a lot of value to this culture. They are ladies, mothers who often sing. There are people who play the batuque, there are 5 batuques that are usually played by men. With this tradition, they draw the attention of the Nyau to come close for the people to see. So when we’re around, it’s to show how to dance. This tradition is always done outside, not here at home or around the community, they dress far away and come to practice the culture already in the community. It’s a culture that can’t stay inside the community, it always has to stay outside. The community can’t know how they live. When they see Nyaú, they end up running away, because they don’t live with him around. Many of the times when Nyau comes close, many mothers have to move away. This tradition cannot be hidden for too long. The rule is to always walk this way.
Many times the government comes to take them here to praise this culture that they practice here, which is the Chewa root. To praise this culture, they are always taking this culture to bring communities closer together, so that they see that they are not a danger, but a culture that comes to bring joy. This culture draws a lot of attention from these communities here. Today the people who were here are few, here there is usually no space just to watch this culture of Gule Wamkulu. He is the one who is in charge of this Gule Wamkulu. Often, he is always the one who receives guidance from the government. Any team that wants to enter here first has to go to the government so that the government sends the information to the chief so that he has the knowledge and does the procedures as he did today.
Now, of these people that we have seen dance, what is the Nyau of all of them?
Gule Wamkulu is the last entry of those who entered last who were spinning, so it’s the one that refers to Gule Wamkulu. Is the mother of all Gule.
What is the difference between Gule Wamkulu and Nyau?
There is no difference. Speaking Gule Wamkulu and speaking Nyau is the same thing.
So are those spinning?
And before those who arrived with the mask, for example, are they preparing for the arrival of Nyau?
And the one who was with Matope?
This is Gule Wamkulu. There is a difference in the Nguny that is their characteristic. But they all have the same lineage which is Gule. Those who were entering, each one has its own name, but all are inside the Gule Wamkulu.
Is it like a collective body, made up of many people? That’s Nyau.


Okay, it’s very clear. Now, these figures are always the same: there’s the one with the bird mask that comes up there, there’s those others with a very big face. Are they always the same, or, for example, before, in your grandfather’s time, there were other masks and now they are others? Or was it always the same masks?
That’s the tradition. It’s continuing, it’s a continuity. That culture comes from our parents, ancestors, we are evolving. That culture is never going to change, it’s not going to change to be another culture which is Gindatse. Gule Wamkulu is Gule Wamkulu, she’s going to keep going. Ngoma is Ngoma. Exactly.
Could it be that there was a woman in this Nyau, or was it a man dressed as a woman? Or was it a woman?
He’s a man but dressed as a woman.
So there’s always a man who dresses as a woman?
In the tradition you don’t say what to use, there is a language that you say, as if to say: “Outside the community”. So it’s something that at some point they don’t talk about.
Can’t you say that?
Yes, yes.
Can’t women dance Nyau?
Woman can’t.
Someone had told us that Nyau is also a rite of initiation for women…
When one is in the initiation rites, one does dance Nyau.
In the rite of initiation can the woman already dance?
No, it doesn’t. The Nyau can go dancing, not the woman.
But Nyau is part of this ritual, but isn’t it the woman who dresses up as Nyau?
It’s clear. Now, when was the grandfather’s grandfather, has there been this culture of Nyau for a long time?
Yes, yes.
Are you teaching your children too?
Yes, yes. That’s why they saw those kids coming in. Because you are teaching, because in the future you are the ones who will continue. This culture is not a joke, it’s something serious, they don’t take it lightly. It’s a serious thing, so people can’t come here and look like it’s a joke, it’s a serious thing.
And how do you choose who will dance the Nyau? How do you choose?
This is a decision that happens where there are all those procedures, this is not where the decision is made, it’s more deep down.
More in the woods, right?

Yes, yes.

Can you tell us any of the songs that those ladies sang, what do they talk about?
The songs that are being played are songs of education, they are songs that when they sing they educate themselves with what they are singing: they cannot steal, they cannot prostitute themselves, all these things, so they are songs of education, it is a way of encouraging, in addition to entertaining, it is a form of teaching.
So you can’t steal, you can’t prostitute, what else did the song say?
These are one of the examples, he summarized. All the songs they were singing there are songs of education. There are several modalities, when they are receiving visitors they sing songs that meet the advice and respect before society. When the government comes, they also make songs that go against the government and the counseling procedure. So when it’s time to educate the home, they also sing songs that have to do with education for the ladies in the home.
So these songs change according to the times, aren’t they always the same songs that your grandparents sang?
It happens, when we evolve more and more with our dance, sometimes we change, bringing a new teaching modality.
Is there a specific song sung by grandparents that they always sing?
There are songs that our ancestors left and they sing.
What are these songs about?
The songs seek the reality that is the present, the teachings of the present as well as of the past. There are songs, for example, that they sang today, they are party songs, because they received a visitor. So they can’t sing songs of death, of death, while they’re having a visitor. So today they sang party songs because they were getting a visitor. Whenever a team comes here, there is a culture of welcoming visitors with a song.
Is there a song that talks about how it rained a lot, or is not raining anymore, a song that talks about the climate changes that are happening here and in the world?
Yes, there are songs that when it’s not raining they sing about it, until it starts raining they sing.
Can he sing?
No, you can’t sing now. When they come another time, he may give in.
It’s the women who have to sing…
Is the clothing, the clothes they are wearing when they dance, always the same as the one they wore before or will the clothes change?

Yes, you do change, and not every outfit belongs to one person.

Can each person who is part of Nyau also choose to invent a new outfit of it?
It’s a tradition, no one can change it, it’s something that has to be followed.
So it doesn’t change? You had said before that it would change. I’m talking about the clothes.
The person can change. For example, I use that face that came with a big thing, so the person has to keep it. You can change your face, but you have to keep the same mask. He can’t change and use something else that the other was wearing.
Does the same person have to wear the same mask every time?
The clothes do they wear until they’re done?
No, no.
Or can they switch?
Yes, they can.
Do they also sing to crops these things? When they plant, they reap.
Yes, when they go to the harvest with that happiness, the tendency is always to sing. At no point can anyone be sad while going to pick a meal, so there is a need to sing of happiness.
Is it possible for him to share some music from some of their moments?
No, it won’t be possible.

Do mothers sing specific songs to children while moving the children or while the children are growing up, is there a song that mothers sing just for the children?

Thank you very much. It was very good, very interesting.

Thank you.