Spiritual and Physical Interpretations of Dance, Clap and Gesticulation in African Indigenous Churches in Nigeria

Ogunrinade Adewale Olukayode, Samson Adetunji Fatokun, Ogbole Friday Abu


Though dance, clap and gesticulation (DCG) are among the practices exhibited during worship in African Indigenous Churches (AIC) among the Yoruba people of Nigeria, the facts that they are performed enthusiastically, spontaneously and vigorously have overshadowed the innate benefits they portend. Until the benefits are identified, many would continually believe that they are unnecessary, unseemly and noisy. This study examines the significances of DCG in AIC in relation to their implications for human’s spiritual and physical wellness.  Five AIC branches were selected in Southwestern Nigeria and unstructured interviews were conducted with 50 laities, ten from each branch. Some of the information provided by them have been reflected in this study. A ten-week participant observation monitoring (two weeks spent on each brand of the five AIC) was also conducted. Data have been reduced to Content Analysis and Simple Descriptive Analysis. DCG have spiritual and physical significances. Under spiritual significance, the vigor exerted is proportional to excitement and effectiveness in worship. Stamping of feet signifies health, strength, and power, passion, suppressing evil and shaking off problems as physical and spiritual weakness. Hand waving symbolizes freedom and victory over enemy. Clapping, feet stamping and vigorous hand waving prevent evil spirits from hibernating within the prayer arena. Dance facilitates healing while clapping symbolizes warfare and victory. Under physical significance, DCG are aerobic though they are done unconsciously. The overall health advantages vis-à-vis aerobics are less considered because they are the byproducts of the calisthenics. While dancing and clapping, sweat is produced leading to release of tensions. DCG aid digestion and sound sleep, increase muscles, bones and cardiovascular strength and aid coordination and balance. DCG in AIC lead to the attainment of physical fitness and spiritual ecstasy; therefore, Spirituality and DCG are related: they connect to facilitate human wellness.

Keywords: Dance, clap and gesticulation, Aerobics, Physical activities, Human wellness, Sickness, Healing, Ecstasy,


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