Amai, rod in hand, sits atop a rock surrounded by her flock. They are all dressed in long flowing garments of red, green, and yellow, emblazoned with white and black stars. Amai motions to the assembled men, women, and children, and they all rise. A short, bespectacled man lets out a long ululation, before beginning to sing,

Joko reJukesheni
Ndarishaira Jekiseni

The rest join in, clapping and swaying in unison as the drums begin a hectic pursuit and the chipendani strikes a dizzying accompaniment. They repeat the song over and over and over again. The singing lifts, now interspersed with groanings, wailing, and an assortment of unintelligible words, followed by swaying, vigorous gyrations, and leaps. With contorted faces, bodies sweating profusely, some are now on their knees, some rolling on the ground, and others with arms flailing wildly above their heads. Dust rises off the ground from the force of the stomping feet.

A group of younger men circle the bonfire and begin a spinning dance that elicits another level of excitement from the congregation. One by one the dancers in the middle begin to convulse and collapse to the ground, unmoving. The clapping and dancing cease. The song subsides to a long, drawn-out hum, and Amai now stands over the slain dancers. She points at each one of them with her rod and whispers.

Free for free. Free for free. Free for free. 

Each one jumps off the ground and cries out in ecstatic tongues. Amai turns to the rest of the congregation and taps those closest to her with her rod and shouts.

I touch, I fall! I touch, I fall! I touch I fall!

Each one crumbles round the fire in the same way as the young men did before. Amai now stands atop the rock, tossing her rod from her left hand to her right, from her right hand to her left, over and over and over again. The short, bespectacled man begins another chant that the whole assembly echoes.

Power change hands! Power change hands! Poooweeer chaaange haaaands!








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