Visitors to the Tankwa Karoo love the bright stars, spring flowers and open spaces. But if you’re lucky enough to cross paths with the Nama reel dancers of Middelpos Primary School, you’ll fall in love with the culture, too. By Arnold Ras
The Nama reel is an ancient courtship fireside ritual that the Khoi and San danced across the Kalahari and Great Karoo for generations. In Middelpos, an impoverished hamlet located near Tankwa Karoo National Park, the local children are keeping the tradition alive. Wild editor Romi Boom was so captivated when she saw the youngsters in action, she simply had to capture their moves on video.
Reel dancing is taught at Middelpos Primary as a way to train the children in dance, drama and conflict resolution, explains acting principal Carin Steenkamp. “The reel dance allows them to portray different roles like those of the meerkat, ostrich or young man or woman courting each other. During the planning phase of a specific theme for the routine, some of the learners, inevitably, differ in opinion. And this is how they learn to respect each other’s viewpoint and ideas. Each dancer has the opportunity to add their own flair and personality to a routine,” she says.
Guests staying at Gannaga Lodge in Tankwa Karoo National Park are often treated to a performance. In this way the children preserve their heritage – and at the same time they raise funds for their own education.
All seven grades at Middelpos Primary are taught by acting principal Carin and four other teachers. Yet the monthly salaries for two teaching positions rest solely with the school, with no financial support from the government. Through their dance performances the children raise money to pay their teachers’ salaries.
Although the reel dancers’ enthusiasm and hard work has paid off last year, 2016 might be an even bigger challenge. “Of the two teachers appointed by the governing body, the school can afford to pay only one for the coming year. It’s exceptionally sad. These children rely greatly on their teachers’ love and attention. We urgently need to raise enough funds in order to keep this teacher on our staff. Any donations (see below for details) will ensure a better future for the learners – learners who themselves are working very hard to better their education situation.”
The learners of Middelpos Primary School would greatly appreciate any donations of any kind. The school’s bank details are: Middelpos Primary School (account name), Absa Bank, 1620144203 (account number).
Send Carin Steenkamp an email for any questions or more information.