THE “JERA” DANCE
Intertwined with enigmatic sounds, the rhythms and movements draw a certain potency in dance that stimulates the viewer. The historical background of the Jera Dance is obscure, deep and mysterious. The origin traces back to the days of hunting expeditions (of the Kparibas in Dagbon) where one particular hunter called Nanja’s remedy to a confrontation in the forest by an ill omen (a group of dwarfs) will set the mystic movements. The beautiful dance of Jera emanated to be performed as a ritual when returning from hunting trips to drive away evil, and later after midnights at the funerals of chiefs and elders. It is believed that on these occasions the mystical drums could sound without a drummer.
However, it is important to note that today, the Jera dance is decontextualized from its embedded African traditional antics and religious significance. It is performed at a myriad of social events and at all times of the day. Its performance illustrates the original connotations and it is able to connect the contemporary participants to their rich heritage from the anchorage of the dance to the ground to the spiritual amulets worn by the dancers.
As with most dances in Northern Ghana, the body of the dancers is ornamentally decorated with a waist belt called “yebsa” made with strands of cowries, metallic anklets and castanets. The dynamics of body movements in the Jera dance is vigorous with steady upper bodies, thrusting hips and tactical maneuvers of the legs with the tilting of the dancers altogether anticlockwise to the sound of the gun-gong and a handful of talking drummers.
The ornaments make synchronized sounds with the moving bodies adding another sonic dimension to the dance environment amidst the songs sang along.