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Umzansi Dance Troupe

Text by Lucky Sindane/TwentyTen and photos by Oupa Nkosi/TwentyTen

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

On a Sunday afternoon in Alexandra, a crowd gathers outside the Madala Hostel. Taxi drivers come to a standstill at the road side, their necks craning to catch a glimpse of the dance troupe who are taking their positions dressed in full Zulu regalia. Everyone waits with baited breath to watch the Ukhahamba Zulu dancers do the Umzansi dance.

“We own this place and all the people that you see around are waiting for us to perform,” said the group leader, Phumulani Makhaza. 

The dancers are aged between 20 and 35 and represent a rich cultural cross section of South African society. It is unusual to see the Umzansi dance outside KwaZulu Natal, but thanks to a group of elders from Bergville, the dance found its way to Johannesburg in 1994.

Sdumo Mlambo, one of the elders who founded the group, said it started as a joke.

“We were having a braai with friends and we just decided that we should start a dance group to keep the youths away from the streets.  It was mostly guys from Bergville who started it, but now we welcome different tribes in the group.  Umzansi dance has been around for years and when we moved to Johannesburg we decided to introduce it here and look how big it is now. There is no substantial financial reward, but the youth love it.”

The Ukhahlamba group take...

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