To Zambians, dance is never just entertainment. It is a form of communication that recreates historical events and strengthens spiritual beliefs. Some dances are performed in lines, with women and men in different rows. The dancers may represent spirits, heroes or figures from folklore such as Chikishikishi, a monster who threatens to eat unruly members of society. Many dancers wear dramatic masks and costumes or body paint. Members of the Nyau cult of the Ngoni people learn difficult routines that demand great endurance. Every year one Nyau performer is chosen as the Vimbuza dancer, the best in Zambia.
The beating of drums underlies all music. The drums include the huge maoma drums of the Lozi, the imangu friction drums of the Bemba and the kachacha drum chimes of the Luvale. Other traditional instruments are the mbira (thumb piano) and the kalimba (a kind of xylophone). Building musical instruments is one of Zambia's great arts. Many popular musicians use both Zambian and Western instruments.

 Zambians enjoy modern as well as traditional music. In 1976, the government decided that 90% of the music broadcast on local radio stations should be Zambian. This decision boosted the popularity of many artists, including the late Emmanuel Mulemena, a well-loved singer. In the 1980s, a Zambian style of pop music called Kalindula spread across the country. Its driving bass line and strong guitars have made it a favourite.

  Did you know?
The vingwengwe is a Mambwe instrument played by four women. Four overturned metal pots are placed in a row. Each woman places a stool on top of the pot and turns it to make the pots resonate. As they turn the stools in rhythm, they create a quartet of "voices."
Zambia has a strong oral history and literary tradition. Creation myths, fables and proverbs are passed from one generation to the next. Theatre is a popular art form. The Zambia Popular Theatre Alliance travels across the country staying in different villages. During each visit, the actors learn about issues in the community. Before they leave, they perform a new play about those issues, using music, drums and singing.

 Zambians make beautiful baskets, pottery and wood carvings. As tourism becomes more important, children are learning these traditional arts at school. Potters tend to be women, while wood carvers are usually men. Both men and women weave baskets. The Lunda people are famous for their carving skills. The Lozi basket weavers are especially admired. Chitenges, lengths of colourful printed cloth, are another traditional art.

  Did you know?
The government has created the National Heritage Conservation Commission and other institutions to protect the country's ethnic diversity. Although the national motto is "One Zambia, One Nation", the government believes that the history and culture of each of Zambia's peoples should be preserved.