Chic African Culture Blog

Did you know?

1. No African country names begin with the letters F, H, I, J, O, P, Q, V, W, X, or Y.

2. Africa is surrounded by water but by definition Africa is not an island because Africa is a continent.

3. African tech startups raise billions of dollars annually, seven African start-ups were included in the World Economic Forum 2021 cohort of 100 Technology Pioneers.

Step In The Name of Love | Gumboot Dancing History in South Africa

Gumboot Dancing in Africa.
Strolls, Step Shows, Stomping the Yard in Africa
Gumboot Dancing history performed in South Africa by dancers wearing wellington boots.

Top Shayela gumboot dancers of South Africa
Top Shayela gumboot dancers of South Africa

The History of Gumboot Dancing

Explore and Understand Africa Through Her Food and Culture

Step in the name of love; today gumboot dancing is more popular than ever across the world especially in African American college Fraternities and Sororities


Thebe Ya Tlhajwa Secondary High School
Koffiekraal South Africa Gumboot Dance 

During the apartheid era gold mining was big business in South Africa. Black miners worked underground in terrible conditions, digging for gold for low wages. They carried out the most dangerous dirtiest jobs in the mines and the safety of the workers during the time was not a high priority. 

Small mining villages which later grew into larger settlements, towns and cities grew up around the gold mining industry. One of the first settlements was Johannesburg, also known as Egoli or the Place of Gold.

The two most common methods in South Africa for mining gold are panning and shaft mining. Shaft mining is a dangerous operation due to the intense heat, most black miners were hired for shaft mining work. 

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.

Gumboot Dancing
Gumboot Dancing

Arthur Wellesley won his battle over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815; Arthur Wellesley shoes became a fashion statement known as Wellingtons. 

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.

Gold mine tunnels were dark places where electricity was spotty if it existed or was allowed but communication critical. It did not take long for the shaft miners to create a language of their own by slapping, stomping and scuffling their boots creating newly found dancing language. 

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.
Phi Beta Sigma Step Show
Phi Beta Sigma Step Show

Gumboot workers were easily recognized on the streets of South Africa due to their unique footwear and the gumboot became a fashion statement. Soon the gumboot dances and songs made their way out of the South African gold mines and into the culture of South Africa’s youth. 

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.  

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Africa is surrounded by water but is not an island, here are a few African Island facts.

Madagascar is the 4th large island in the world and is located in the Indian Ocean supporting a unique biology, about 90% of its plants and animals are found nowhere else on earth.

Composed of 155 islands, Seychelles is Africa's smallest country. By far the largest island is Mahe, home to about 90% of the population and the site of its capital city of Victoria.

Cabo Verde has a strategic location 310 miles or 500 km from the west coast of Africa near major north-south sea routes; important communications station; important sea and air refueling site.

Africa is surrounded by water but by definition Africa is not an island because Africa is a continent. Continents can not be considered islands because of their size and also by historic definition since many people who study geography define islands and continents as two different things.

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Being African in America I have grown up learning about different ethnic cultures. My father and mother are historians of African culture and history and their influence expanded my activities to several best-selling cookbooks, magazine columns, self-branded products, and a popular African culture and food blog.

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