Gule Wamkulu

They are said to live alone, and no one knows for sure who they are.They dress in masks and the skins of animals, and when they dance they kick up the dust in order to help disguise themselves. Only the chief who appointed them, as guardians of the village, know who they are, and they have the responsibility of driving away evil spirits from the village.

Some see them as evil, while others see them as harmless. It is hard for the azungu (white person) to know for sure. It seems that nearly everyone you talk with about the gule will give you a somewhat different story about them. One thing is sure. They are surrounded by mystery and intrigue.

Performed by the Chewa secret societies, the Gule Wamkulu (or “Great Dance”) is a masked dance which takes place at male initiation ceremonies, funerals, and major local and national celebrations. The dance is symbolic as a medium between the ancestral world of spirits and the mundane present. The Gule Wamkulu symbolizes the spectrum of life’s emotions and actions.

The Gule Wamkulu is performed at the request of the village headman on the occasion of funerals of village members, puberty initiations, and the installation of chiefs, and is part of the legacy of royal ritual inherited from the Chewa past.