With a thundering of feet, a walloping of drums, and the screech of multiple whistles, the women of Chicaia village swung their bodies into action and the choda dance began.
Choda is one of the only traditional dances still practiced on the Mozambique shores of Lake Malawi, and each year a number of villages invite their neighbours to a dance-off. Male drummers, positioned in the centre, are surrounded by a thick, two-tiered line of women in a circle, who are colourfully-clad and resplendent with sunglasses and whistles.
As the drums start, the circle moves around, hips jutting out, elbows elevated, and the excitement begins. The better the dancer, the more apparel that she wears; heaped on her by ecstatic supporters caught up in the excitement. Interestingly reminiscent of many nightclubs around the world, the village men mostly watch from around the sides, many finely fuelled for the day. When the dance ends, dancers from another village takes their place, and the beat continues long into the afternoon.
At the end of the day, tired and sweaty but happy, the dancers and drummers eventually retreat, and those of us from Nkwichi Lodge who were lucky enough to have been present headed back for a G&T around the fire, heads still swirling and feet still tapping.
Watch this traditional dance filmed in Mala Village, Lake Malawi, by Franciscus Gerardus: