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Traditional Dance In South Africa

Traditional dance in South Africa is one of the fundamental elements of South African society. As a cultural society, dance is one of the features that build/binds the South African community. We cannot discuss Africa without its traditions and culture.

Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people. (Alvin Ailey).

Traditional customs and cultures are ways through which we express our believes and values. In-depth reverence for the gods are our daily, monthly and yearly rituals. We perform this ritual mostly through dance and music.

Music and dance are inseparable tools in South African culture and traditions. You cannot take music/ dance from the African culture because they are the bodies that connect the world of the living and extraterrestrial.

Furthermore, in Africa, including South Africa, dance is a major tool use in celebrations. Different occasions call for dynamic steps and as our worship and traditions grew, so also are dance movements.

Having got a fair knowledge of African dance, let us explore the traditional dance in South Africa.

Welcome my friends to this great gathering of like minds – a place where we natively discuss interesting African cultures.

Traditional Rain Ritual Dance

The rain dance is synonymous with rain ritual and it is a ritual performed by almost all African countries. The process of the rain dance ritual is however different for each tribe and country.

In Africa, we have two seasons namely raining and dry season. During the dry seasons, there are lots of harvests, lands are being prepared to await the raining season, ponds and rivers are drained for fishes, festivals and religious rituals are performed, etc.

Most African celebrations/rites are usually outdoors so the bright weather is an essential element for the day. When it rains, however, the rhythm changes and the celebration might end up a disaster.

In other words, during this season lots of activities take place everywhere. There are lots of singing and dancing, food, o boy; this is an amazing time in this land. Can we then say that Africans love the dry season more than the raining season? Let’s find out.

Raining season is sometimes called planting season because, by this time, lots of planting are ongoing. The vegetables and greens flourish during this season also. In fact, during this time, food items are very cheap and affordable, fresh and surpluses and above all the weather is cool.

Activities are not on during this time but we sure do love this period of surpluses. What happens then if there is no rain?

This is where the traditional rain dance comes in.

Traditional Rain Dance in South Africa

Traditional dancers
Lovedu dancers

According to history the Lovedu tribe also known as the Balovedu, practice the rain dance. The head of this dance is the rain queen and she is human like every other person. When she dies, the power to make rain will be transferred to her daughter or any other person she appoints before her death.

This traditional dance in South Africa from the Bantu –speaking people, is a dance made when there is no rain. In the course of drought, the Bantu royal relatives meet the queen with gifts of cattle heads, followed by dancing. She is calmed with the dance to pity the people.

The performers known as Gosha is the most significant of the ritual. There are diverse styles that are performed also but the best is the legobathele. It is a unique kind of Gosha dance using slow and noble movements. With a graceful drumming and several tones from a reed pipe, the legobathele dance is performed.

The most active element in begging pity from the queen is dance – making dance an effective instrument in the rainmaking ceremony.

Rain dance ceremonies have been ongoing ever year in every raining season in October. This routine started in 1937 when the rain did not fall until December.

Making the queen happy is of uttermost importance to the lovedu people. Due to this reason this traditional dance in South Africa, the rain dance, is an annual ceremony in the land.

Pantsula Traditional Dance South Africa

Traditional dance
© Pantsula dance

Pantsula is a traditional energetic dance from the black settlement of South Africa. This dance has been in existence since the 1970s and the culture was derived from black South African’s. The blacks, were removed from the high lands to the township area – a poor region.

It is a dance that was formed as a revolution against the government – a means through which the youths express their ways of life during the apartheid era. Pantsula means ‘waddle like a duck’. A fast and complex rhythm of dancing feet, performed by crews/troupes of male dancers, with the addition of female dancers once in a while.

The stages for performances are usually outside of bars, and busy streets creating a subculture in the community.

During the apartheid era, the South African government passed a bill that the city was preserved for whites and the blacks were evicted to the township. This new community brought together diverse groups of men sharing their tale.

In recent times, however, this traditional dance in South Africa has progress to advocate for the present political challenges facing the people. Also, it has gained international recognition and the whites are fascinated by the moves.

Although pantsula dance was formed from traditional dance in South Africa, it has progressed into a universal model for south African youths to express themselves through the art of dance.

Zulu Tribe of South Africa

Zulu traditional dance

Indlamu dance originates from the Zulu tribe in South Africa. The Zulus have the highest population in South Africa with an estimate of 10-12million people living in Kwazulu-Natal.

In the 19th century, the Zulus joined forces with a great kingdom under the leadership of shaka. Their language is isiZulu and a majority of the tribes are flount in the language.

Shaka was a great leader and warrior and in his reign, he created an army of 50,000 men, defeated his enemies and gained controlled over many clans – this attribute to the large population of the tribe.

The Zulus like every other African cultures and tradition have their special way of representing their status through clothing and dance. For the married women, they cover their body – a sign that they are out of the market and for the young unmarried ladies, they wear short skirts made from beads or cotton flaunting their god-given assets.

The engaged are not left out in this culture too. A naturally grown hair, and a decorative cloth covering the chest, is a sign of an engaged lady. This is to show respect for her in-laws.

Now that we have background knowledge about the Zulu tribe, let’s look at the traditional dance in South Africa from the Zulus.

Indlamu Traditional Dance

Indlamu is a warrior dance that showcases the identity of the people. Though popular, it has not been influenced by western civilization.

Indlamu dance is performed with drums and full traditional cloths. The distinctive traits of the dance is the unique posture, precise timing and the animal skin costume. This is a dance performed by only men of any age group wearing skins (amabeshu)

The attire ranges from head rings, ankle rattles, shields and spears and ceremonial belts. This traditional dance in South Africa reflects the strength of the warriors.

It can be performed in indoor and outdoor events – creating a spectacular sight.


Traditional dance in South Africa is the heritage of the people. When you see the dance, you see the people. Each dance step reflects the culture of the people of the past and present. Traditional dance in south Africa also stands as a reminder to the people, remembering them about their identity.

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