Images in Nations

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By Wonder Guchu WINDHOEK In the true spirit of the world becoming a global village, the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre last Friday hosted a dance show featuring French and South African dancers. In a very experimental feat, the dance companies – Harambe Muti Wedzidzo from South Africa and the French Olympia Starz – fused the popular gumboot and patsula dances with hip-hop. This act marries African traditional dances to the Western modern dance popular among the youth worldwide today. The gumboot dance is taken from the early days of Johannesburg’s growth as a mining hub when men, drawn from all over southern Africa and beyond, worked in the belly of the earth. These men were forced to stay in compounds and, because they had nothing to do during weekends, the Zulu took it upon himself to entertain others. The only way they could do this was by imitating their work underground. The name ‘gumboot’ stems from the footwear miners wore at that time, and with these boots the dancers stamp the ground in unison, creating a heavy thudding noise. Patsula is more modern than the gumboot dance. It is fast and the dancers can bend their bodies anyhow and any way. In some quarters, Patsula is associated with the quick, frisk movement of a pickpocket. Although hip-hop was born in the United States, it has taken different forms, dependent upon the sphere of the globe. But wherever the dance is practised, it demands that the dancers exude so much energy in tandem with the vocals. Considering these origins, Images in Nations brings together the old and the new, as seen by both the African and the European. “It was not very difficult to put the dances together because we relied on rhythm,” the group’s spokesperson said shortly before the show last week. Although this was the group’s first show in Namibia, they have had two other plays since their meeting in Paris three years ago. Harambe Muti Wedzidzo is comprised of Sipho Tshabalala and Mbuso Kgarebe, who both learnt their early dance moves in Soweto, while the Olympia Starz is led by Den Lau. From Namibia, the act will travel to seven other countries, including Botswana, Mauritius and Madagascar.