Mhande Dance in Kurova guva and Mutoro Rituals: An Efficacious and Symbolic Enactment of Karanga Epistemology

Jerry Rutsate (
Music, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
April, 2012
I am a music educationist, musicologist, ethnomusicologist and dance ethnographer. My working experience covers teaching at primary and secondary school levels, tertiary (teacher education) and higher education (university). I have also supervised research at undergraduate and postgraduate (honours and masters) degree levels. My area of research interest is indigenous musical arts.


This thesis is an ethnography of mhande dance as a dynamic phenomenon that enunciates Karanga belief and normative values that are enacted through performance of mhande dance in its chief indigenous contexts: the kurova guva (settling the spirit of the dead) and the mutoro (rain making) rituals. Approached from an emic perspective, the study draws data from field research conducted between 2008 and 2010 among the rural Karanga of Shurugwi district in Zimbabwe. This study is an explication of mhande dance which provides the reader with cognitive understanding of this indigenous spiritual dance that embraces music, dance and gestures. The dance features symbolize and spiritualize Karanga culture.

Karanga scheme of life (chivanhu) embodies two worlds: the natural and the supernatural in which the natural is explained by the supernatural. The supernatural is the world of the spirits with God (Mwari) being the Supreme Spirit. According to the Karanga, the deceased become spirit beings that maintain the quality of life of their human nature. Thus the Karanga spiritual world is populated with good and bad spirits where the good are referred to as ancestors (vadzimu) and the bad are identified differently, for example, sorcerers (varoyi), alien (mashavi) and avenging spirits (ngozi). The Karanga believe in God who they venerate through their ancestors. Ancestors are empowered to overcome bad spirits and hence their siblings appease them in order that the spirits assist the humans to deal with challenges of life for which the natural world provides no solution. Karanga reality of the existance of spiritual beings is made to be a part of everyday life through the conduct of spiritual ritual ceremonies: kurova guva and mutoro ceremonies wherein performance of mhande dance occasions spirit possession. Thus, through its efficacious and symbolic features, mhande dance is experienced reality of Karanga epistemology (chikaranga).