Step In The Name of Love | Gumboot Dancing History in South Africa
|Top Shayela gumboot dancers of South Africa|
The History of Gumboot Dancing
Gold mining consumes large amounts of water and flooding became a problem to the employer due to low production from the workers due to air and water borne illnesses. Acid and other chemicals in the water from gold processing were poisoning the shaft mine workers as well as harmful gases were contributing to air pollution causing breathing problems.
In 1856 the North British Rubber Company started to manufacture Britain’s first rubber or ‘gum’ boots also known as Wellington boots. The rubber boots had a long history of relieving the issue of trench foot in World War I. Trench foot is a skin disease caused by prolonged exposure of feet to wet and damp conditions.
At the end of the war in 1918, soldiers brought the gumboots home and wore them for work for farming, fishing and other wet dirty jobs. Therefore, a solution to the low production of the gold shaft mine workers was to mandate gumboots as a part of the daily uniform.
Shells, bells and other decorative items were attached to the boots when possible giving workers their own unique tribal identity. Soon hand claps and rhythms using the whole body were incorporated with the gumboot stepping.
Today gumboot dancing is more popular than ever across the world especially to African American college Fraternities and Sororities who drew on portions of gumboot as part of the ongoing legacy of the historic African American stepping tradition.