Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mine Dance ...

What's a "Mine Dance"?  I hear you ask ... (also referred to as the Gumboot Dance).

I have been reminiscing about my youth in South Africa, and a vision of "mine dancers" popped into my head, you see my mothers ancestors would have come to Johannesburg in the late 19th Century early 20th just after Gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand.   My grandfather was a miner and all my mothers brothers (7 of them) were miners.

My father was in construction and built many houses, power stations and buildings, he was the foreman when they built "His Majesty's", and oversaw the completion of the Kelvin power station and a few cooling towers in and around Johannesburg.  Anyway to get back to the mine dancers, we lived in the Southern Suburbs of Jo'burg and my mom's family were all on the West Rand on the mines.

Once a month we would have to do the journey to the West Rand to visit them, it was a journey that seemed to take for ever, in those days there were no motorways, so we would drive past Uncle Charlies, along this long road that seemed to go through a forest, until we got to "Main Reef Road", once on "Main Reef Road" we would drive for miles and miles to first get to my Grans house, which seemed to be the only house in an open stretch of about 10 miles.  I just remember she had an old coal stove, and NO inside toilet!

Going along Main Reef Road you would eventually go past the miners compound, I forget what they were called now, and often you would see the miners standing on the side of the road, big burly muscly miners wearing their mine helmets and big rubber boots with "jingles" attached to them and some of them brandishing spears, doing a mine dance.

I remember one of the songs they used to sing was sho shaloza which was adopted as a rugby song when we participated in our first Rugby world cup in 1995 held in South Africa.   It's a vision that will always be implanted in my memory banks, I think I was lucky to live in South Africa!  I found this video on Youtube of a "Mine Dance".

I found a bit of history on "The Cape Town Magazine" website written by By John Scharges which I will transpose here:

...Gumboot Dancing?

Stomp, spin and step got you confused?
A Humble beginningGumboot (also known as Wellington boot) dancing originates in the gold mines of South Africa, at the height of the oppressive apartheid pass laws. Due to the extremely poor conditions, mine managers saw the easiest solution to be the outfitting of workers with a uniform consisting of no shirt; a bandana to keep the sweat off the brow, and in order to combat the damp – Gumboots.

Workers were often not allowed to communicate with one another, which led to them developing their own sort of Morse code through slapping their gumboot covered feet with their hands. With little or no other freedoms allowed to them, it was not long before the workers developed this into the full fledged expressive art of Gumboot Dancing.

The Humble DanceLike many African dances, the Gumboot dancer articulates his whole body in performing the moves, often in syncopation with the other members of one’s group. A rhythmical, percussive, almost... ‘stomp’ is the end result – nowadays bells are often attached to the boots for added impact. The whole effect creates something akin to a whole body drum, and one cannot but admire the skill required, the visual and aural picture painted.

The songs that accompanied the flurried frenetic adaption’s of traditional dances (traditional dances, as with traditional dress, were outlawed) were sung in the workers’ native languages and spoke of the trials present in their work life. Some of the moves were even developed in mock imitation of the way the mine operators themselves moved. Contemporary gumboot dancing has more varied themes, but follow similar paths, if only due to origin.

Into Modern TimesThis dance became a representation of the everyman; and its popularity has continued into modern South Africa – with local musicians like the ‘White Zulu’ Johnny Clegg utilising it extensively in his shows, and international musician Paul Simon even naming a song on his Graceland album ‘Gumboot’. The famous Drakensberg Choir even incorporates Gumboot dancing as part of their African-folk routine.

Gumboot dancing troupes are now a fairly common sight, with places such as the V & A waterfront playing host to a number of  different groups. Most festivals have at least one group performing, and gumboot dancing buskers have become regulars at tourist hotspots.

The end of Apartheid allowed dance to flourish in a way it had never before, with South Africa embracing and utilising its artistic heritage - to create new and exciting expression through movement, and breathing new life into the old.
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1 comment:

Keyle Rece said...

really remarkable article said to be Mine Dance. thanks for share this kind of useful post to aware with us.

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