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“Tombra”

This is the name given to a 4-day Muslim wedding dance and a popular song, currently in the repertoire of `Monday Music`, a choir which is part of the Canterbury Cantata group.  The choir was named `Top Choir` of Kent in 2017.

The dance was performed by five men and five women at festivals and celebrations, which drew over 300 participants, wearing their very best costumes and jewellery. Noserings and anklets were worn in gold and silver, and horses and camels were suitably adorned, in Africa, not Canterbury!

Dancers were barefoot, and danced non-stop, replaced by others who took over to enable them to participate.

The dances had names, such as Chiari`le, He`le, and `Tombra`. Movement was minimal for women. It involved gentle moves, but mainly foot-stamping, clapping, singing, and rhythmically dancing to the drums. Dancers moved in a circular motion and changed places.

The status of these people varied and was reflected in their house style and furnishings. They worked in wood, metal and weaving. An abundance of cotton led to its export to Port Sudan, and thence to Liverpool. Animal husbandry was evident as they kept goats, cattle, sheep, donkeys, and camels.

Diana was also aware of slavery, witnessed by her writing of finding `slave irons`. This was quite late, as much of the anti-slavery movement legislation had been enacted before the 1930`s. They may have been ancient remains but may also have shown a reluctance to abandon such a lucrative trade by many peoples.

`Tombra` remains as evidence of `cultural forces` continuing and is remembered right up into 21st century, for ironically modern slavery still takes on `material` forms.

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