A row has erupted in Kasungu between the CCAP Church and Traditional leaders with Senior Chief Lukwa and Chief Mwase accusing churches in Kasungu of trying to suppress the premier Chewa dance Gulewamkulu during installation and elevation of chiefs who are Christians.
But moderator for the Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbytery (CCAP), Reverend Dr Chatha Msangaambe said that if the chiefs have any grievances concerning the church it is better to voice them officially through proper channels to the church leadership and not on public functions.
“It is disappointing that Gulewamkulu which marks the climax of any Chewa cultural function is not allowed to perform when Chewa chiefs who are Christians are being installed or elevated. Elevating or installing a chief is a cultural function and all traditional performances are expected to take part but it is surprising that while other traditional dances such as chintali, chimdidi and others are accepted, the church does not allow Gulewamkulu to perform,” complained Senior Chief Lukwa.
Senior Chief Lukwa was speaking recently at a ceremony held to elevate Group Village Headman Mwesambuzi to Senior Group Village Headman Mwesambusa, whose actual name is Benson Kaniki, a dedicated member of the CCAP Church and a well known wealthy businessman in Kasungu Town, trading under the name Nangantani.
Lukwa explained that the trademark of Chewa culture wherever you go is Gulewamkulu, it is the backbone of Chewa culture, but if the church believe there are certain issues that need to be corrected they will look at them and see if it is possible to make some changes to suit the church.
“If there are issues with Gulewamkulu which the Church feel are not in accordance with the church doctrine, then they should tell us so that we see how we can correct those issues,” Lukwa begged the Church.
He told the church representatives at the ceremony that he and Chief Mwase are themselves Christians but they understand that culture must be allowed to play its role in society.
Speaking at the same function, Chief Mwase echoed sentiments expressed by Senior Chief Lukwa saying every tribe is known by its culture and if there is anything Chewa culture is known for, it is Gulewamkulu.
“To denying Gulewamkulu from performing at a cultural function like this one is just as good as denying ourselves that we are not Chewas by tribe because Chewa is Gulewamkulu and Gulewamkulu is Chewa,” observed Mwase.
And speaking the following day at another elevation ceremony of Group Village Headman Tundulu to Senior Group Village Headman Tundulu, Chief Mwase repeated his complaints as Gulewamkulu was also barred from being featured at the function because two of the chiefs were catholic.
“I see that the church is now infringing on our cultural rights and many of you are afraid of being excommunicated from your churches,” Mwase observed and threatened saying: “From now on I will be forced to travel with Gulewamkulu from my headquarters to perform at these functions because I am not happy here to have a cultural ceremony without the performance of Gulewamkulu.”
In response to the accusations by the two chiefs, Dr Msangaambe, moderator of the CCAP Nkhoma Synod explained in an interview that Gulewamkulu has brushed shoulders with the church from as early as 1930s up to now.
“There have been instances where the church and Gulewamkulu have directly clashed especially during funerals where Gulewamkulu have claimed that the dead person belonged to their occult and so they are there to conduct funeral ceremony for their member, we have been resolving such issues,” explained Msangaambe.
On the proposal by chiefs that if there are certain elements in Gulewamkulu which the church does not like, the church should point them out so that they can be corrected, Dr Msangaambe said that the chiefs could find it difficult because it is the very elements which make Gulewamkulu to be what it is such as the secrecy surrounding it, the belief they implant in people that Gulewamkulu are spirits of the dead which are invoked from the world of the dead, the teaching of slandering, the magic involved in certain cases, and the extreme cruelty in certain instances administered to outsiders who underrate or expose the occult.
He said the church teaching does not allow such behavior because it is sinful; it is against the Bible teaching which is the core of Christianity.
The moderator emphasized saying: “Gulewamkulu is not a mere performance such as Chintali, Ngoma and other dances, it is a kind of religion, the true members believe in so many things including that they can reach God through the spirits of their forefathers.”
He acknowledged that certain parts of Chewa areas nowadays do not regard Gulewamkulu in such serious terms as other areas. He gave examples such as most parts of Kasungu where Gulewamkulu can originate from nowhere and still perform without being disciplined.
In certain parts of Lilongwe and Dedza Gulewamkulu is a serious matter and a chief is regarded as head of Gulewamkulu such that when he or any member of the occult dies, it is Gulewamkulu that conducts the funeral ceremony just as for a Christian where the church takes charge when the member dies.
To reduce conflicts with Gulewamkulu leaders, when a village or group village headman becomes a Christian renouncing Gulewamkulu, the church demands that they bring letters from Traditional Authority bearing testimony that the village headman had indeed favoured Christianity to Gulewamkulu.
He said he is happy that many members of Gulewamkulu since the introduction of Christianity have renounced their membership and have become staunch members of the church, some have indeed become pastors and are winning souls for Christ from the same occult they belonged before they had an encounter with Christ.
However, the moderator acknowledges that not everything about Gulewamkulu is bad. He said there is beautiful art in Gulewamkulu. He cited the artistic regalia of Gulewamkulu as being very exceptional, the beautiful singing, sweet drum beating and the dancing itself of Gulewamkulu.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :