Therapeutic Potential of a Drum and Dance Ceremony Based on the African Ngoma Tradition.
OBJECTIVE: Ngoma ceremonies are used throughout Central and South Africa to help people address "difficult issues," including medical illness. They are examples of ceremonies that use strong rhythms and dance for this purpose in indigenous cultures throughout the world. This study sought to modify an ngoma ceremony to make it appropriate for biomedical use and to determine its acceptance and potential for benefit for people living in the United States. METHODS: The Congolese Zebola ceremony, an African healing practice, was modified to be religion-neutral and to involve only moderate exercise. Seventeen participants were recruited for the current study. Most participants were living with a chronic illness (n=15), and a few had no medical diagnoses (n=2). Participants spent 10 minutes in a focused activity, such as meditation, yoga, or prayer. They then danced to the Congolese rhythm Zebola for an hour and a half, with a rest every 20 minutes. Afterward, they indicated whether the experience was positive, neutral, or negative and wrote a narrative describing their experience and what they saw as strengths and weaknesses of the ceremony. They then participated in a focus group discussion. Data from the narrative and focus group discussion were coded, tabulated, and analyzed for themes. RESULTS: Sixteen of seventeen participants found the ceremony to be a positive experience. None found the form uncomfortably foreign or disturbing. Participants described diverse benefits, including increased exercise tolerance, stress reduction, feelings of group support, and beneficial spiritual experiences. CONCLUSIONS: Further study of the modified ngoma ceremony is warranted. Global health programs should consider the potential benefits of transferring technologies in both directions rather than only from technologically advanced countries to less technologically advanced ones.
Vinesett, AL; Price, M; Wilson, KH
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