Women carrying wood to the village

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Andrea Ciccarese | Malanje Province, Angola

In Angola, the term madimba denotes a type of xylophone popular in the northeastern region of the country. According to Ambundu oral tradition, the art of the madimba was revealed to the people of this region by Ngola Kiluanji, the legendary founder of the Kingdom of Ndongo. Like the various types of xylophone, the madimba consists of a series of tuned wooden bars arranged in descending order on gourds that serve as resonators.

Its tradition is still preserved by several rural communities in the Baixa de Kassanje, an area of great importance in Angola’s modern history, the scene of the first revolt against Portuguese colonial rule and once an influential slave-trading center.

In my work I focus on the community of Bairro Nzaji. I portray its players, inhabitants of the village and local traditional authorities; I recount the rituals that accompany the construction of the instrument and allow its secrets. Through its repertoire, madimba players preserve the memory of the places and the sovereigns of the Ambundu people, as well as the stories of struggle and resistance to slavery and colonialism that have marked this territory.

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