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10.9.2 South Africa Culture: What is the origin of the boot dance?




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This article is from the South Africa FAQ, by Scott Hazelhurst scott@cs.wits.ac.za with numerous contributions by others.

10.9.2 South Africa Culture: What is the origin of the boot dance?



Newsgroups: soc.culture.african
Subject: Re: South African Boot Dance (mine boot dance)
Date: 8 Dec 1994 12:52:59 GMT
References: <JC73eKZ.sizwe@delphi.com>

[stuff deleted]
> If you know anything about the history of the South African Boot dance
> please respond here or e-mail me.
>
> Asante Sana (thanks very much)
>
> Sizwe

Hi Sizwe,

I know of two theories, from info in our holdings at the
Dictionary Unit for SA English:

1. David Coplan, in his thesis on 'The Urbanization of the African
Performing Arts', states that it was an 'urban-influenced
rural' dance which was picked up on by students in Durban,
thence by dockworkers who added the boot-slapping and stomping
(boots would have been part of their standard work apparel),
and thereafter by mine-workers, who would also have worn gumboots
at work.

2. Others state simply that it began among Bhaca migrant
mine-workers. The Bhaca are a Xhosa-speaking people.

The earliest mention I've found of the dance is in Doke and
Vilakazi's Zulu-English Dictionary, where it's under the
entry -cathulo (i.e. 'isicathulo'), rather offensively
defined as: 'Kind of 'boot' dance indulged in by boys
since European contact.' There may be some influence
of the Bavarian Schuhplattler involved, but maybe that's
just Eurocentric thinking.

The dance is performed by groups - usually about half a dozen
to a dozen people, when I've watched, though sometimes more.
At its best, this type of dance is fairly stunning in its
co-ordinated rhythmic complexity, expressiveness, and
(sometimes) humour; but as with most art forms, you get
some pretty boring stuff as well.

-Colin

Colin Muller            (colin@aardvark.ru.ac.za)    |\ - /|
Dictionary Unit for South African English,         /  \| |/  \
Rhodes University, 6140 Grahamstown, South Africa |    o o    |
[But my views are mine, not my employers'.]       |   /| |\   |
Phone: 0461-318107                Fax: 0461-25642 |,,| `;' |,,|

 

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