The Gule Wamkulu dance was selected in 2005 as one of the 90 Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Protection Program.
Gule Wamkulu was initially performed by members of the Nyau brotherhood which is a secret society of initiated Chewa men, at the request of the village chief around the 17th century.
In modern times, it is mainly performed at funerals and memorial services, and also at celebrations such as chiefs’ inaugurations, weddings and after the harvest.
The dancers wear costumes and masks made of wood or straw and represent a great variety of characters, from wild animals, spirits of the dead and slavers to more recent objects such as motorbikes and helicopters.
As representatives of the world of spirits and the dead, they dance with extraordinary energy, entertaining and frightening the audience.