On Sunday, avid lovers of Traditional song and dance category in the annual President’s Day Celebration competition packed the SSKB auditorium to the rafters, to revel at their favourite groups, live on stage.
Taking to the stage in the late afternoon, was one category that was making its maiden appearance at the competition, the NamaStap. Four groups, namely, !Hunikam (Tsabong), !Kharakhoin (Lokgwabe), Khowesen (Ghanzi) as well as Our Originality (Hukuntsi) were making history as the first groups to compete in this category since the competition was established in 2008. All eyes were on them. A good majority of the audience were experiencing Namastap for the first time.
Scurrying on to the stage, and adorning colourful outfits, it was a memorable experience to see group after group showcasing this beautiful dance. Although, some felt that the groups lacked a bit of good energy, coordinated footwork, and accurate rhythm, the four groups truly gave the audience a piece of what Namastap is all about. In a year or two, they will really blossom and grow with the competition.
Namastap is a dance synonymous with the Nama people. Those who are better informed about this dance explain that it is usually danced during ceremonies such as weddings. When it comes to attire, the only thing that differentiates the groups were the hats, which differed in colours to showcase the different clans that are found in Botswana.
Currently, there are nine clans in Botswana that include /howesen, !Gomi #nuu, Gai, //Kuau, //aixa, //aes with a common factor of one language. History has it that the Nama people in Botswana have their roots in Namibia where they migrated as they ran away from the German war.
The Lokgwabe group, !Kharakhoin were declared the winners of this category. Formed in 2014, for years, the group has been competing under the Polka category, which obscured their dance. Led by William Cloete, the group comprises of 15 members, mostly youth. Prior to taking to the stage, Cloete troupe promised him that they will grant him the best birthday present by winning. And indeed, they stayed true to their promise. Giving a brief about some of the characteristics of Namastap, Cloete tells this publication that the male dancer always leads the female. He explains that back in the day, that is where some dancers found love. He also explains that the dance has different tempos and vibe. “We can do the fast or slow rhythm,” he explains. His group is one of the groups that grace the annual Nama Cultural Festival that takes place in Lokgwabe.
In an interview, Meshack Cooper, who is the group leader of Khowesen explains that they also dance when a young girl celebrates her right of passage at the end of her menstrual period. Cooper highlights that it is a good development to see their dance being recognised and standing on its own. “This is only the beginning of great things to come,” he says.
Same sentiments were shared by Nichodimas Cooper, one of the organisers of the Nama Cultural Festival. “We appreciate the authority for recognising our dance,” he says, adding that being grouped under Polka was not doing any justice to their culture. He explains that the development comes at a time when they are preparing for the fourth annual Nama Cultural Festival pencilled to take place on August 30 & 31 in Lokgwabe.
The Nama people from different parts of the country including Hukuntsi, Tsabong, Bokspits, and Ghanzi, and others from South Africa and Namibia are expected to grace the event. The event seeks to showcase the culture and language of the Nama people and is sponsored by companies that include Mckag Transport, Ponelo Wealth, Entabeni Guest House, as well as the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport & Culture Development.