Gumboot Dancing

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The rhythms of the mines

Rooted back in the dark gold mine tunnels of South Africa more than a century ago, gumboot dancing has come full circle. Initially a codified tap used by black miners deprived of conversation, gumboot dancing today is one of the most expressive South African dance genres.
South African gumboot dancing has a seductive magnetism synonymous with the country's mining culture, but few people know of the hidden meaning and history of this infectious dance tradition. The dance form came of age in the gold mines during the last decades of the 19th century. It stemmed from a code that mine workers devised among themselves because of the repressive ban on talking enforced by mine bosses.
Kitted out in Wellington boots to fight skin diseases caused by the malodorous water flooding mine tunnels, the 'muzzled' miners discovered they could communicate with one another through coded slaps on their boots and bare chests. Also prevented by bosses from wearing their traditional dress in the mining compounds, which further estranged the miners from their rural roots, the migrant workers from diverse, ethnic backgrounds found common ground in an extended gumboot patois.
Enter gumboot dancing. Initially, mine bosses banned it outright, but eventually its qualities as an uplifting social activity, unlike the potentially destructive effects of alcohol, were acknowledged and even encouraged. Some mines fostered the formation of gumboot dance troupes and organized gumboot dancing competitions that they attended.
Standing by, applauding the by-product artistry of their workers, for decades mine managers remained oblivious that the dancing they so appreciated was often coded criticism of poor conditions, bad pay, and the bigotry of white bosses. Today South African gumboot dancing stands alone as one of the most singularly unique dance expressions.
Excerpted in part from "Gumboot Dancing" at
You will experience multiple genres of African dance by street performers on Day 5 of your Cape Tour. You will also be treated to a private Zulu welcome dance at Humala River Lodge during your Safari Adventure.

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