In vaTsonga culture, it is known that once someone says ‘bring my xibelani’ all anticipate seeing the women dancing. A xibelani is a traditional skirt worn by Tsonga women, pleated carefully to enhance the motion of the wearer’s hips. The xibelani skirt is quite heavy and as such, it needs to be cut carefully so that the women can dance well under the weight.
‘The history of the xibelani dance goes way back into the early coastal times of southern Mozambique from the 1400s or earlier when Mozambican tribes were experimenting with musical instruments and particularly wooden instruments and percussion sounds from traditional drums, xylophones, and marimbas. The indigenous Chopi people became particularly active in this art and are the documented source concerning the early times of this form of music and dance, the timbila which has been registered in the UNESCO heritage archives as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The dance style, in essence, requires the dancer to shake the hips in tune with the rhythm but the whole body should be used to guide the movements.

‘Xibelani dancers usually accompanied the percussion music in addition to hand clapping and whistles. When the mbila (xylophone) and swigubu (drum) players engaged in an orchestra, the Tsonga women would follow up with the singing, which was in the form of a call-and-response method, and at intervals the women would take turns to dance in front of the orchestra. The xibelani skirts of old were made with various fibers, wool, strings, and grass.’ (Wikipedia: 2020)