‘Dunumba’, The Strong Men’s Dance, is a very old dance performed exclusively by strong men, as its name suggests.
At the beginning of the ‘Dunumba’ festival, the drummers gather in front of the soloist’s (djembéfola) house and play the ‘KON’ rhythm for a short while, announcing the start of the festival. After a short break, they play the rhythm again, this time inviting the single young girls of the village to join the drummers at the festival square (barra) and accompany them with their songs and hand-clapping. The drummers play the rhythm for the third time while heading towards the dancing square. Once at the square, they lit a little fire to warm up and stretch the leather skins recovering the instruments. The young girls who have not arrived at the festival square by that time will receive five mild lashes on their legs as punishment.
In the meantime, the barratis have joined the festival square. This is a group of thirty to forty tall and strong men who control and oversee the whole festival. As the masters of the festival square, they possess all the instruments and have the unique privilege to perform the first dance. The barrati title can only be transmitted within the same family. The men wishing to become the new barratis must form a closed group and move towards the barratis (the walk) to challenge them during the ‘Dunumba’ festival. Both groups wage a fierce battle using hippopotamus skin leather whips. If the attacking group wins, they become the new barratis.
When the rhythm plays again, the barratis start performing the dance. They are lined up in two rows, each dancer holding an art-decorated hatchet (gendé) in his right hand and a hippopotamus skin whip (manimfosson) in his left hand.
As they perform the same dance movements, both raws slowly move towards the musicians. Once the dancers meet the musicians, the barratis play a solo rhythm in turn to end the dance. It is at this moment that men perform their best to impress the young girls standing behind the drummers. It is then that other men can ask permission from the barratis to perform their own dance.
During the whole festival, there is a man with a strange look, wearing a monkey skin, dancing all around the festival square.
Rhythms: KON, BADA, DE MOUSSO NI KELLE, KONOWULEN, BOLOKONONDO