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Do The Gumboots Dance
Zaid Hassan, 11 Feb 04

As South Africa celebrates 10 years of democracy this year, it feels right to point out the small but potent Gumboots Foundation based out of Johannesburg, SA.

The Foundation aims to connect the vast South African diaspora, mainly in the UK, to some amazing grass-roots projects in South Africa. The model intends to take advantage of the strength of the UK pound against the Rand, meaning that even small donations made every month can have siginificant impact on projects at home. The relationships that Gumboots aims to cultivate go well beyond the financial. The idea is that the diaspora will connect with the most socially viabrant and innovative projects in South Africa on a personal level hence going beyond a typically cold donor-recepient relationship.

"The aim of the Gumboots Foundation is to provide a pathway for the expression of pride in South Africa for those at home and abroad who desire to be part of its ongoing development. This is through a monthly donation to the project of your choice. We all lay claim to different aspects of South Africa and each of us has the potential and influence to shape the country's future. Become involved with the Gumboots Foundation and make South Africa a healthier, happier place."

Gumboot dancing or isicathulo originates in the gold mines of South Africa, which opened in the 1880s.

The floors of the mines often flooded due to poor or non-existent drainage. Hours of standing in the fetid water caused skin problems and ulcers and resulted in lost time. The white bosses, rather than spend the money needed to properly drain the shafts, issued rubber gumboots to the workers.

“Thus the `miners' uniform' was born”, the Rishile Dancers explain. “Heavy black Wellington boots to protect the feet ... jeans [or overalls], bare chests [temperatures underground can reach above 40° C], and bandannas to absorb eye-stinging sweat [and hard hats].”

Faced with this repressive regime, workers adapted traditional dances and rhythms to the only instruments available -- their boots and bodies. The songs that were sung to go with the frenetic movements dealt with working-class life -- drinking, love, family, low wages and mean bosses.

See Behind the `gumboot dance' for more.

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Comments

Hi,
i have seen yesterday n German television the Gumboots team which was danceing in London and went on stage the first time. WOW!! It was great!
I mean you should start to look after to make this group traveling all over Europe, please. This is magic, which will drive the people crazy. So many people are here interested in dancing, like we have had the last 2 years a big group of irish folk dancers running through Europe and it was allwayŽs month before sould out.

I hope you will make a tour or come again to Europe.

God bless you all and i wish you the success you really derserve!

Regard from Bremen/Germany
MArtina



Posted by: Martina Benkenstein on 7 Mar 04

Hi,
i have seen yesterday n German television the Gumboots team which was danceing in London and went on stage the first time. WOW!! It was great!
I mean you should start to look after to make this group traveling all over Europe, please. This is magic, which will drive the people crazy. So many people are here interested in dancing, like we have had the last 2 years a big group of irish folk dancers running through Europe and it was allwayŽs month before sould out.

I hope you will make a tour or come again to Europe.

God bless you all and i wish you the success you really derserve!

Regard from Bremen/Germany
MArtina



Posted by: Martina Benkenstein on 7 Mar 04



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