Collections: Clara Henderson - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Mvano Women's Guild Music and Dance in Malawi (1988-2003)

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Mvano women singing and dancing during a Presbyterian women's meeting at Chitsime CCAP Church. Limbe, Malawi, 2003. Image © Clara Henderson.

The videos in this collection are part of a larger series of recordings and personal interviews pertaining to the music of Blantyre Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) in southern Malawi. This larger collection was recorded over a 22 year period and represents over 200 hours of video recordings, 400 hours of audio recordings, 44 hours of interviews, as well as numerous notebooks, archival documents and miscellanea. The videos selected for inclusion in the EVIA Digital Archive Project were recorded over a 15 year period, between 1988 and 2003. They focus primarily on the music and dance of the Mvano, or women's guild, of Blantyre Synod CCAP, whose constituency covers the entire southern region of Malawi, including Ntcheu district. In 2004 Mvano, whose membership is approximately 80,000, had groups in each of the Synod's 422 congregations ("mother" churches) and the 600 prayer houses (satellite churches) connected to these congregations. Depending on the size of individual churches, Mvano groups vary from 20 to over 1,000 members. In the area of Christian music, Mvano are particularly noted for their distinctive compositions; their Africanisation of translated European hymns; and their unique performance style which incorporates dance steps, drama, dramatic gestures, and circular movement. This collection highlights Mvano music and dance at meetings and workshops and in choir performances. It also features a ceremony during which new members join the organization and includes discussions with Mvano members about their music. Examples of congregational singing and the music of youth choirs are also contained in specific sections of the collection.

This collection is currently in production and is not yet available to the public.

Image © Alan Burdette

Clara Henderson is Associate Director for Projects at Indiana University's Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities (IDAH) and is Associate Director of the EVIA Digital Archive Project. Her research interests include the music and dance of Africa and the African Diaspora, religious expression, visual media, and technology. She received her Ph.D. in Folklore and Ethnomusicology from Indiana University in 2009. Her research focused on dance discourse in the music and lives of Presbyterian women's guilds in southern Malawi. Before attending IU she lived in Malawi for more than eighteen years working with the music department of Blantyre Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP). In Malawi she studied all aspects of music within Presbyterian churches in the southern region and actively participated in their singing and dancing traditions. For the past twelve years her research has focused on the music and dance of women's guilds (Mvano). Her monograph, Rolling Away the Stone: The Africanisation of Christian Music by Presbyterian Mvano Women in Southern Malawi, is in press with the Kachere Series, the publications arm of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Malawi. She has studied the Karnatak music of South India, and performed as a singer and mrdangam player. She has also performed with a Ghanaian percussion ensemble. Currently, she performs as a singer, pianist, and percussionist, and is a member of a Zimbabwean marimba band and an Afro-Brazilian samba group.

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