W. Msosa Mwale, “Against ‘Tradition’:

Form and Style in a Likhuba Master Dancer”

ABQ Chapter 35, p. 332ff


How does aesthetic theory apply in postmodern times, and to things from popular culture? We need to broaden the theoretical base.

Aesthetic judgments are an aspect of economic and political power.


Likhuba Dance: Context Among Sena in Malawi, related to speech, movement, instrumental music Traditionally done at funerals, now extended to political rallies, etc.


Performance Structure: Chorus of women, master dancer, drummers

There are traditional songs and routines but they are adjusted to fit the situation.


Master Dancer’s Routine: a certain outfit (befitting a shaman), a relation to the drummers and chorus, elements of personal style (perhaps dramatic, perhaps gymnastic)

“What makes a master dancer cannot be taught” (336, top)


Conclusion: Art and Culture Production in Likhuba

Performance includes tradition but breaks past them and includes differences in style, etc. The dance can serve a variety of functions, for example easing grief, affirming identity, acknowledging cultural diversity. “…no hegemonic relation obtains between the structure as conceived by such [vested] interests and the content of that structure” (337).