Mooba dance of the Lenje ethnic group of Central Province of Zambia
Inscribed in 2018 (13.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Mooba is the main dance of the Lenje ethnic group of Central Province of Zambia, performed since pre-colonial times. It is also practised in parts of Copperbelt and Lusaka Provinces, by both men and women. On certain occasions, when the dance reaches its peak, some lead dancers are possessed by ancestral spirits called BaChooba; it is said that, at this point, the spirits take the lead in dictating the flow of the dance, drumming and singing. Both male and female dancers can be possessed with BaChooba spirits. The costume includes coloured beads, a traditional skirt called a Buyombo, and rattles worn around the calves. In addition, the main dancers hold a spiritual stick known as a Chimika and a fly whisk made out of an animal’s tail. Mooba serves both entertainment and healing functions, and contributes to the spiritual identity of the community. Since the element is performed during social functions that are open to the public, children can observe and learn it freely, with performances attracting a wide audience thanks to their entertaining nature. Almost every adult knows the Mooba dance as it is the main dance of the Lenje people. The Lenje community has also established groups that perform wherever they are invited, helping to promote the practice further afield.