Monday, June 21, 2010

The Universal Language of Dance

We woke up excited to celebrate a birthday, Malawian style. Mother Dana, the founder of Mtendere Village, was turning thirty-one years old. The house mothers, staff members, and children wanted to honor her on this special day! We arrived at the village, not knowing what to expect, but anxiously awaiting the festivities to come. As we walked down the path to the village, we heard thunderous music playing underneath a large party tent. Our faces lit up with excitement to learn more about the importance of song and dance within the Malawian culture. The love that the children and house mothers have for Mother Dana was shown through many signs and banners displayed throughout the multi-purpose room. We immersed ourselves within the groups of children while taking in all the decorations the children created. At the front of the room sat the head table where Mother Dana and her special guests were seated. The children welcomed her with a traditional song. We were asked to serve the guests Fanta or Coke and cookies. Before eating, Dana received presents in the form of cards, songs, and dances. The people of Mtendere Village were split into different groups to present these gifts to her, which made it more meaningful.

The children were especially excited for the meal they were about to eat. The special occasion called for a meal of rice, chicken, and cabbage. Including meat adds to the special feast for the people of Mtendere Village. While we didn’t expect to see people eating with their hands, it is a common practice in Malawi. We were shocked to see how much food the children could eat. Even the preschoolers had cleaned plates that were originally heaping with food.

After the formal ceremony had ended, we were all invited to celebrate Dana’s birthday by participating in one of Malawi’s favorite activities, dancing. Underneath the party tent was a disc jockey playing American music. This was exciting to us because of the familiar tunes. After that song, the D.J. played only Malawian music, all of which was unknown to us. Initially as a group, we found ourselves wanting to hear a few songs that we knew. Though after reflecting, we thought the experience was much more significant to us because we did not come to Malawi to find our American culture.

Not only were people of Mtendere welcoming to our group, but also to the surrounding villages. Usually the perimeters of the village are gated off, but they opened the gates and their hearts to welcome visitors. Although the outsiders ventured into the party, they felt apprehensive to join the festivities. Noticing their hesitance, we invited them to dance with us. Rhea Ervin, being the caring educator that she is, saw that several children were longing for companionship. Making herself vulnerable, she took a chance and invited them to boogie down with her! We all found ourselves stepping out of our comfort zones and being rewarded with a day filled with laughter, dance, and love.

As educators, we realize that incorporating the community into everyday classroom practices is important. We have become more aware of this idea while being in Malawi. Each child at Mtendere Village has a specific role to help the whole community grow. It is imperative that we embrace the community into our own classrooms to ensure each individual can develop to the best of his/her potential. Just as our peer Rhea modeled, sometimes reaching out to the community can leave you feeling vulnerable. However, it is these challenging lessons that we are learning here in Africa, which continue to impact our educational perspective.

No comments:

Post a Comment