By: Ivona Frans, Julia Heita and Eutimia Nakangombe
Contemporary dance in Namibia and the world has taken centre stage with many among the youth making a living from this art that has taken a long time to be recognized as a career.
There are many groups that have made it to the top and travelled across the length and breathe of Namibia through contemporary dance.
Alas, the art of dance has been part and parcel of the Namibian art space with cultural and traditional dances forming the core of this art.
In fact among the Aawambo people hailing from the northern part of the country dance is a form of art, a language and an evolving cultural expression.
While many young people now see dance as a way of expressing a subculture, cultural dances are equally as precious to so many people as they often contain pieces of history, livelihood and diversity.
One simply has to know more about the Omupembe cultural dance practised by Aawambo men.
This kind of art leaves the audience in awe.
Reminiscent of the energetic jumps of the Masai people of Kenya the Omupembe dance among the Aawambo men is a rare artistic expression.
There is no such thing as a tall man in this dance. Perhaps if anyone doubts these assertions they have to see the energetic Aawambo men showcase their art by jumping over each other in the expression of their happiness and show of cultural dominance.
The Omupembe dance is practised by men while jumping over each other.
It is usually performed during cultural events, celebrations or just as a way of entertaining.
Back in the days, the Omupembe dance was practised by warriors or either man with spiritual power as it symbolizes the special abilities they possess.
In some northern parts of Namibia, cattle herders started practising the dance and since then it had become a norm.
According to Francois Tsoubalako, a Visual and Performing arts lecturer at the university on Namibia said that “Omupembe among Aangandjera people was forbidden in the past by the South African regime of occupation for its nature that resembles military practice”.
He gives a rare and captivating account of the dance in his book, RITUALS AND DANCE ON NAMIBIAN HISTORICAL BACKGROUND AND MANIFESTATION.
Dance expert, Junias Shikongo who has been a part of Omupembe dance both as part of his cultural belief and as a performer said he has been dancing for the Omupembe Shafishuna group since 1990.
“The dance makes me forget about all my life problems and makes me feel at home,” he said.
He added that he is very proud of his culture and practising the Omupembe dance is more like exercise.