Tufo (dance)

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Tufo is a traditional dance in Northern Mozambique.[1] The dance is performed by groups of women and is found in Maputo, the provinces of Cabo Delgado and Nampula and the Island of Mozambique.[2][3] Of Arab origin, the dance is performed to celebrate Islamic festivals and holidays.[3][4] The dance is traditionally performed by dancers moving just the top halves of their bodies and accompanied by songs and tambourine-like drums.


The origins of tufo are unclear,[5] although on the Island of Mozambique, legend has it that the dance began at the time when the prophet Muhammad migrated to Medina.[6] He was welcomed by his followers with songs and dances praising Allah, accompanied by tambourines. Since the prophet approved of these dances, they continued to be performed at religious festivals.[6] Tufo probably arrived in Mozambique in the 1930s, brought by a tradesman from Kilwa called Yussuf.[5][6] The name probably derives from an Arabic name for the tambourines used in the dance, ad-duff.[6] This word became adufe or adufo in Portuguese, and then tufo.[6]

The dance has also been heavily influenced by the matrilineal Makhuwa culture.[6] Despite its Muslim origins, tufo has spread beyond the communities and context of Islam.[5] Although still performed at religious feasts, tufo songs may also contain social or political themes.[6]


Historically tufo was performed by both male and female dancers but now men usually only dance on rare occasions.[6] Tufo dance groups comprise 15–20 women and are accompanied by four men or women on flat tambourine-like drums.[6] All of the dancers sing although there are usually lead singers.[6] Traditionally, tufo dancers danced while kneeling down, rhythmically moving the top halves of their bodies.[5][6] More recently tufo choreography has evolved such dancers may stand and move their whole bodies about.[6]

Tufo songs are transmitted orally and may be composed by one of the dancer's or by the group's poet.[6] They are usually in the Emakhuwa language but may also be in Arabic or Portuguese.[6] The dancers must wear matching scarves and capulanas, which are a kind of sarong made from brightly coloured printed cloth.[6] Each dance requires a new capulana to be worn.[3][6]


  1. ^ Simmons, Paulanne (4 February 2002), "Out of Africa: Mozambique troupe brings blend of traditional & contemporary dance", The Brooklyn Paper, retrieved 13 January 2010 
  2. ^ Cristalis, Irena; Catherine Scott; Ximena Andrade (2005). Independent women: the story of women's activism in East Timor. CIIR. p. 115. ISBN 1-85287-317-5. 
  3. ^ a b c Fitzpatrick, Mary (2007). Mozambique. Lonely Planet. p. 33. ISBN 1-74059-188-7. 
  4. ^ Correia, Amílcar (27 March 2003), "L'île magique de Vasco de Gama", Courrier International (in French), retrieved 13 January 2010 
  5. ^ a b c d Sheldon, Kathleen E. (2005). Historical dictionary of women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Scarecrow Press. p. 247. ISBN 0-8108-5331-0. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Arnfred, Singe (2005). "Tufo Dancing: Muslim Women's Culture in Northern Mozambique". In Patraquim, Luís Carlos. Médias, pouvoir et identités. KARTHALA Editions. ISBN 2-84586-594-5.