For the past five years, a group of young girls have been using dance to preserve and ommenelebrate the marginalized Mapulana culture in Mpumalanga.
The girls were inspired to form the Makgakga cultural group in 2009 when a teacher, Jeannette Mashego, expressed concern that youngsters around Powerline in Acornhoek were glued to cartoons on TV and idolised European culture instead of their own.
“I am very passionate about culture and I realised that the best way to raise awareness about it was to transfer my knowledge to children so that they could grow up being proud of who they are and understand their heritage,” said Mashego.
The dance group encourages storytelling, praise singing, poems and traditional songs.
But the girls took a while to learn these things themselves.
“…(M)ost of them did not know the traditional dances, poems and praise songs. I am glad that today, they are the true ambassadors of our colourful tribe at their young age. Their self esteem and confidence have improved dramatically,” Mashego said.
The group performs at events around Bushbuckridge.
One of the girls, Charmane Mokoena (12), said the dance group kept her fit and off the streets.
“I love being with the group because we learn so many things. Dancing keeps us fit and healthy,” she said.
Another girl, Busisiwe Malebe (14), said said she will dance until she’s old because she believes that dancing tells a story.
“Our teacher teaches us how to preserve our beautiful culture and write a lot about our origins. So dancing is life and I will do it until I become a mother,” she said.
The Mapulana tribe has been on a mission to have their language recognised as an official language.
They have also laid claim to Moholoholo mountain in Hoedspruit where the Mapulana were victorious over SiSwati soldiers centuries ago.