Zulu dancers show the beauty of African culture

Zulu dancer Jomo Xulu said he dances to show the beauty of African culture.

"In the media, people see the sad side of Africa, the poor and unhealthy children," he said. "We are here to give you the beauty of Africa and to preserve the culture."

Xulu said the dance troupe's outfits of faux cheetah print and headbands made of ostrich feathers were similar to Zulu culture, and the dance moves were authentic.

To begin the show at Pruis Hall on Wednesday night, a woman in a beaded skirt and yellow tank top sat at a drum set and began playing congo drums. Then four other dancers walked onstage and began to dance and sing.

Xulu said this type of dancing, called Mkhmazi, is performed by the Zulu before going off to war.

"You get the spirit together [and outside the body], and dance," he said. "Everything you feel is victory."

He also said men cannot start a family until after they are victorious in war.

Xulu soon invited the crowd to participate by repeating a line of the song after him and clapping to the beat.

A phrase like "ah-oo-ga" was repeated as Xulu made interjections and led the dance.

"If you give us your energy and we give our energy, we'll all have a good time," he said. "We're not going to waste your time tonight."

Later the crowd of more than 100 students were given a lesson in the Zulu language.

Xulu said the soft clicking sound is a signature of the language. In Zulu, the sound for "q" is a popping noise. The sound for "c" is hard "t" sound.

Students were also invited to learn Mkhmazi dance moves, starting with a simple foot tap. Xulu said energetic high kicks are a signature dance move for the Zulu.

The dancers invited students to help them close the program with a dance, including some of the earlier moves and more hip thrusting, while repeating simple Zulu phrases.

Multicultural Center Director Patricia Lovett said modern hip hop and stepping moves originated from African dance steps.

Lovett said this performance was part of Multicultural Week, which kicked off Monday with the cultural clothesline event.

The dance troupe, which is from Birmingham, Ala., performed on Wednesday at Ball State after giving a performance on Monday in Indianapolis.

Lovett said the Multicultural Center hopes to plan similar events in the future.

"It tied in well with our theme: Don't lose your culture and embrace other cultures," Lovett said. "I liked where they engaged students. I think the students will remember that."

Xulu said every culture should be respected.

"Everybody who has culture and doesn't harm nature should go for it and embrace it," he said.


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