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Shona Culture: The Bira Ceremony

© the copyright holder. Photo credit: The Pitt Rivers Museum

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This painting by Zimbabwean artist, Norman Mhondisa, depicts the Bira ceremony, held among the Shona to make contact with their ancestors. The central figure dressed in black and white and carrying an axe is a sviriko (spirit medium). She is dancing in preparation for possession by a spirit and is accompanied by musicians (under the tree on the left). The pots carried by the women coming from the village contain beer that has been brewed for seven days.

The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford


  • Date


  • Medium

    oil on canvas

  • Measurements

    60 x 80 cm

  • Accession number


  • Acquisition method

    gift, 2003


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The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

South Parks Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3PP England

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