The Vimbuza Healing Dance was selected in 2005 as one of the 90 Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO’s Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage programme.
Vimbuza is a dance performed to heal mental illness as part of traditional healing and is popular among the Tumbuka people of northern Malawi.
Most of the patients are women suffering from various mental illnesses.
They are treated over a period of weeks or months by prominent healers who run a village house called Temphiri.
Women and children from the village form a circle around the patients, who slowly go into a trance, sing songs and invoke spirits.
The men beat a drum rhythm specific to the spirits.
The powerful experience of singing and drumming together provides a space for the patients to heal their illness.
The repertoire of songs and intricate drumming is constantly growing, and all the dance virtuosity is part of the rich cultural heritage of the Tumbuka people.