Gumboot Dancing in Africa Umoja

Gumboot dancing has now become a world-known dance but was conceived by black South Africa workers as an alternative to drumming—which authorities restricted while labouring underground in the gold mines.

The gumboots (or as most of the world refers to them: Wellington boots) were a solution to a problem of often flooded gold mines. The men stood in knee-deep water toiling at their work stations day after day. Many miners developed serious and painful skin conditions, so the knee high, thick plastic boot was introduced: the gumboot.

The workers used the gumboots by slapping their boots and stomping their feet together as a code to call or say something to another person a short distance away. It was basically used to communicate in the mines and relay messages to each other that they did not want their bosses to overhear.

Many of the steps and routines are parodies of the officers and guards who controlled the mines and workers’ barracks. Gumboot dancing started to spread outside of the gold mines and into the communities as a form of entertainment. As the dance became popular, the employers took the dancers and formed troupes to represent their company.

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Mosquito in gumboot dancing in Africa Umoja Scene - South African musical