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Namastap finally gets recognition

MOMPATI TLHANKANE
Karkhoin PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Handed down from generation to generation, Nama people’s Namastap dance has finally gotten the recognition it deserves after being under the shadow of the polka for years.

Thanks to the annual Nama Cultural festival held in Lokgwabe village, President’s Day Competitions (PDC) this year included the Namastap category for the first time ever. The winners of the category !Karkhoin from Lokgwabe finally got to share their cultural heritage with the world and scooped P30,000 cash prize in the process. 

It’s a unique dance that has traces of polka, segments of phathisi and styles of pantsula dance. !Karkhoin has been competing under the polka category but this year they got the chance to uncompress an ancient celebratory dance performed by the San, Nama and Khoi.

Namastap is considered one of the oldest dancing styles of indigenous Southern Africa. 

It is energetic in pace and demands a lot of fancy footwork compared to polka.

The beat is the same as polka, but faster with a little delivery of kwasa and the keyboard. Namastap has the original and frantic footwork.

For the Nama people whose ancestors lived as nomads and hunter-gatherers, it was unique to see how the new generation has evolved the Namastap through continuity and change. 

Dancers of Namastap have outlined that it takes years to learn the authenticity of the dance’s correct cultural technique. Unlike Polka, where the male and female partners hold each other most of the time, Namastap gives the men more freedom to dance and explicitly move their legs.

The women make beautiful flowing movements of the hands and hips. At times the men display moves synonymous with Mapantsula during a parade. The dancers of Namastap do not lift

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their feet from the floor that much but rather make sliding movements fixed to the central axis.

This dance is an important symbol to the Nama identity and is performed during social gatherings. This lively dance was danced around the campfire after hunting expeditions, good harvest or during a celebration. The most outstanding feature of the Namastap is the vigorous pace at which it is danced. The dance was performed in the dusty sands around a campfire. Back then they would dance at a fast and energetic pace resulting in a lot of dust.

Now that the dance is being featured at PDC, it might become popular again as a true celebration of Nama people’s traditions that find new expression in contemporary forms. With accompanying instrumentation on the piano the dancers don outfits commonly known as ‘working class clothes’.

With the Annual Nama Cultural Festival, the Nama people might as well grow their event into one of the best cultural festivals in Botswana.

Held in Lokgwabe, the winners of this year’s PDC are from Lokgwabe.

The Nama people in Botswana inhabit the western part of the country and are mostly found in the Kgalagadi district, with a significant number of them in Tsabong and Lokgwabe.

The Nama people are originally from Namibia. Those in the country belong to the !Khara Khoen//aes clan, which was led into Botswana by Simon Gonxab Kooper during the German wars. He was famous for showing great bravery and resistance in his encounter with the German troops.



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