By Matty K. Kaminzi
Merciana Kavanze is a traditional dancer from the Kavango region. As a young person, she has seen the popularity of their traditional dance varnish into thin air because of the advent of contemporary music.
As difficultlt as it may for her and many of her fellow traditional dance believers in the Kavango regions, they have seen many of their age dance the night away in awe to the popular amapinno popularised by many South African dick jockeys.
This is a sad reality that many traditional dance groups have to live with. So difficult is the reality that they have to play second fiddle to popular culture, a scenario that erodes their relevance and ability to earn an income in the process.
Kavaze and many like-minded have now taken it upon themselves to keep their culture through dance alive. But is this an easy journey for her?
“I dance because I want to keep what I was taught by my parents alive,” she said.
She also appealed to many youg people from the Kavango regions and the country at large to join traditional dance groups and sign up for the annual cultural festival they have in the region.
Another dancer from the group Selesi Marcus said being part of the group has helped him financially and expanded his knowledge of his country.
“There is power in diversity and if we celebrate our diversity we will remain a united people,” he said.
A former learner at the Rundu Secondary school Philip Somili said expressed being part of the cultural dance group at school taught him a great deal about culture.
“I didn’t know much about the cultural dances before joining the group at school, I didn’t even know what they are called but now however my knowledge of these dances and culture has grown. I have come to understand the importance,” he said.
Some of the dances that have seen their relevance eroded by contemporary times include Ukambe, Mutjokotjo, Kambamba, Epera and Nondere from the Okavango west and east region which are popular among the Shambyu, Tdziriku, Mbunza and OvaKwangali tribes of the great Kavango regions.
These dances have been part of the Okavango culture for decades, and each dance different in its own way.
To many who have not related to these dances, they are forgiven to think they are similar primarily because of their style.
Among the different Okavango people traditional dancing has a lot to do with the stomping of the feet and clapping of the hands much to do with the rhythm of the song.