Strengthen ties through Sukuma dance


Participants participating in the Bagika and Bagalu competition to mark the end of the one week Utamaduni festival that took place in July 2017 in Ramten Skov, Denmark (Photo by Richard Magumba)

Traditional dances are not only a form of pleasure and entertainment, but rather a way of bringing people and communities together and building solidarity. In Africa, traditional dances are also used as a way of preserving culture through costumes that dancers wear and through stories told in the songs, molding the behavior of community members so as to abide by norms and culture. These dances also encourage cooperation, hard work, and economic growth and are renowned for being filled with breathtaking showmanship and incredible feats of ingenuity and courage.
I am currently filming a documentary on the Sukuma traditional dances called ‘ILOLEKEJO’ a Sukuma word for ‘use your side mirror to look at where you came from’ as a way to preserve and motivate the Sukuma community to value their culture through traditional dances.
In my initiatives of filming the documentary, I was invited to attend a Sukuma Traditional dance festival in Ramten Skov, Denmark in 2017 known as the Utamaduni Cultural Camp organized by the Utamaduni Cultural Association based in Ramten Skov, Denmark to experience and observe what takes place at the camp and get footage for my documentary. The festival/camp takes place every year in July for a week, where people from Denmark and other countries together with mentors of Sukuma dance groups from Sukuma land Tanzania gather and participate in the culture and traditions of the Sukuma people. Participants get an opportunity to learn to play the drums and learn different Sukuma dances such as the Sogota, Bunungule etc.

Participants learning how to dance a Sukuma dance and play the drums during the Utamaduni Cultural Camp in July, 2017 (Photo by Richard Magumba)

When I arrived at the camp, I was in shock and couldn’t film for almost two days as I was amazed by the level of which the Sukuma culture was being preserved. It was surprising to see a culture of people who live in a different continent thousands of miles away being preserved in a European country by a community with completely different cultures and traditions and have been doing so for the past 38 years. It was like seeing Sukuma land in Denmark!

The Utamaduni camp solidifies ties between the Tanzanian community and the Danish community.

I was also fascinated by the Sukuma community in Denmark who despite of living there for many years and others being born there, still preserve the Sukuma culture. The Sukuma community there have had a major contribution to the camp in terms of teaching dances and other Sukuma cultures at the Camp.

Richard in action at Utamadunicamp 2017. Photo: Mads Mchele

After coming back to Tanzania, I was able to make this teaser of the Ilolekejo documentary featuring the camp:

I shared the experience I had at the camp with other people through the teaser and photos I took while at the camp and it also sparked some emotions of happiness and intrigue among them and motivated many of them to preserve their cultures. They also expressed an interest of attending the camp in the future. I was happy to see how our dances are preserved by some European communities, this has motivated me to value and preserve my culture aswell. It also makes me want to learn more about the Danish. I feel that our communities are closer – Dr Manyanza Mponeja

The amazing factor about the festival is that it is organized by a Danish cultural Association which was formed by a group of Danish citizens who were fascinated about the Sukuma culture. Indeed I expect to get to learn more about the camp, capture more footage of it and interview many other individuals who were involved in promoting and preserving the Sukuma culture and enjoy the festival on my next trip to the camp.

Richard in action with his camera at Utamadunicamp 2017. Photo: Mads Mchele

Gallery with som of Richard Magumbas pictures from his trip to meet the danish Utamadunigroup, summer 2017

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