Zion Christian Churches Churches Liturgy Prophets Services Members

© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Music, Musical Instruments and the Sacred Dance

Although hymns from other mission churches may be used as well as those from the Z.C.C. hymn book, hymns used in these Zion churches are given quite another tune and rhythm. The congregation sing the hymns, accompanying the tune with clapping (all churches had church choirs), and the commonest musical instrument, which is a drum. All the churches I visited use drums. This use of drums is an interesting feature because, although they are traditional in South Africa, apart from one minority Tswana tribe in the North (Hambukushu), they are not customarily  used in Botswana, so the use of drums would appear to have been imported from South Africa.

Men or women who are talented at this may beat the drums. They  are commonly made from cow skin stretched tightly over half of a tin drum container. Drum sticks are often made of short lengths of hose pipe.

Bells and rattles are also used in Churches, but not so commonly as drums.

Members dance to the hymn, usually around a candle placed in the middle of the floor, they dance in a line following the lead of a senior member. Men, women and children dance. (Menstruating women do not dance, this compares to the traditional attitude to menstruation, when a woman is believed to suffer from "hot blood". ) As the dancing becomes more spirited the dancers twirl around, hissing like snakes and may even jump up in the air. However sometimes at special services held to discover the cause of particular problems, only the more experienced prophets will dance.

Ways of Dancing

(Dots in centre represent the candle plus those being prophesied)'

Progressing through the village to a Ditapelo (Prayer Service) at a troubled member’s  home. The drum is beaten  to accompany the hymns whilst being carried on the back of a bicycle

Women are frequent drummers probably due to men’s absence at the mines or cattle-post

Cymbols made of tin cans were also common

Prophet beating the drum to gain “clearer” prophecy

Congregation clap to accompany the drumming and hymns

Mother’s baby crawling under watchful eyes of another member whilst mother drums for hymns