Jikelele South African Dance Theater
NATIONAL/ETHNIC IDENTITY: South Africa
DANCE ORIGIN: South Africa
ORIGIN: South Africa
These dances from the Zulu and Xhosa (Bantu language) communities of South Africa are traditional and also choreographed with a modern twist. They reflect a culture both broken and intact, its people living within a traditional culture and also a modern one. In 1970, the Bantu Homeland Citizenship Act bound Zulus together as citizens of KwaZulu-Natal. Five million Zulu live there, and two million live in disconnected territories. Twenty percent of Johannesburg residents speak Zulu. Thamsanqa Hlatywayo—originally from Johannesburg—leads this powerful performance.
Sizolihamba is a dance of confidence with traditional hip movements, leg lifting, and stamping, dance to overcome obstacles—“The world is yours. Anything you do, do it with assurance and confidence!”
Sihlala kulo, Thina sonke
We’re going to travel all over the world.
We live in it. All of us being one...
Gijima—To Run—is a Zulu men’s celebration dance for war victories and weddings. This old form brings out the intense beauty of men dancing in unified rhythm.
Bhul’ubethe, meaning to move even the morning dew out of the path of an important person, is danced in traditional Zulu ceremony by a soloist to clear the way for a royal procession. Today it’s an introduction, an opening dance.
Amangwevu, or Upper Cut, from the Xhosa people, is named for its physical power. This solid dance is packed with jumps and kicks and surprises (in this case, good ones). Rhythms change quickly from the opening mellow mood, to a warrior beat, wide sweep, and—suddenly—trickery.
Jikelele’s Zulu maidens wear skirts of South African cloth, cut above the knee to represent their availability for marriage. (Newly-married women wear dresses to the ankles; all married women cover knees.) Beads of stone, seeds, glass, wood, and bone are gifts honoring a girl’s coming-of-age, engagement, or a friendship. The furry umgobo stick symbolizes celebration. The male dancers wear skins—traditionally from impala or zebra hunted for food and accented with feathers and bone and teeth necklaces. The cowhide shields (made in South Africa) symbolize protection and celebration.
It is said that the spirit of the
Zulu and Xhosa people is “in the voice.” Most dancers accompany themselves by
singing in harmony or a cappella, or with the “calling” style. The drum is
always an inseparable partner to dance. The drummers must also dance in their
minds, shaping intricate poly-rhythms on the dikosha drums.
DANCE ORIGIN: South Africa, West Africa
When Nelson Mandela passed away in December of 2013, people around the world felt a deep collective grief. And we also felt a collective gratitude for Mandela’s astonishing leadership in an essentially peaceful revolution against apartheid, and for his tireless work against racial division as first president of a democratic South Africa.
The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, in partnership with Dancers’ Group and San Francisco Grants for the Arts, honored Nelson Mandela on his birthday—July 18th—presenting a traditional homegoing ceremony and tribute to this beloved leader. Under the rotunda at San Francisco City Hall, all were welcome to join this program of praise, singing, dancing, and drumming.
THE EVENT INCLUDED:
- A procession of outstanding African drummers led by Festival co-artistic director CK Ladzekpo, including many of the same musicians who drummed so powerfully for Mandela’s appearance in 1990 at the Oakland Coliseum.
- Thamsanqa Hlatywayo, artistic director of Jikelele Dance Theater, led the singing of the South African national anthem.
In English, the words are:
God bless Africa
Let its horn be raised,
listen also to our prayers,
Lord bless us, we are the family of it
Lord bless our nation,
Stop wars and sufferings,
Save it, save our nation,
The nation of South Africa
Ringing out from our blue heavens,
From our deep sea’s breaking round,
Over everlasting mountains,
Where the echoing crags resound,
Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom
In South Africa our land.
- Jikelele Dance Theater led a traditional South African Praise.
- A sacred offering, including a libation, and brief tributes from dignitaries.
- Finally, Diamano Coura Dance Company presented three African dances celebrating Chief Mandela’s life and transitioning—choreographed by Ouseynou Kouyate of Senegal, with musical directorship by Dr. Zakarya Diouf.
The first piece is Kebebourama, traditionally danced in honor of the king or chief, with the griot singing his praises and he dancers and musicians celebrating his life. The second piece is a Liberian dance, with powerful ancient spirits gracing the stage in full-body masks. In the final piece, the drumbeats rise, inviting everyone to join the high-spirited dancing—in celebration of the extraordinary blessing of Nelson Mandela’s life.