South Africans treasure their diverse cultural heritage and we are only too happy to share it with our guests. We recently welcomed guests from Ethiopia who were treated to a unique cultural experience from our Seven Fountains Community and in return, our staff were treated to a cultural experience of their own. During their stay at Lalibela, our Ethiopian guests were entertained by our Seven Fountains Gumboot Troupe when they performed a traditional South African gumboot dance.

The gumboot dance is a traditional South African dance that is performed by dancers wearing wellington boots (known as gumboots in South Africa). The gumboot dance originated more than a century ago when migrant workers came to work in the mines in South Africa. While they were working underground in the dark tunnels, mine management tried to keep order and quiet by forbidding conversation amongst the miners. Dressed in gumboots to protect their feet from the pungent water, the miners created a tapping code to communicate with one another. These taps and smacks developed into elaborate dances that were performed during their leisure time. After the mines closed, gumboot dancing evolved with each new generation and is still performed today as a means of celebrating cultural diversity.

The Seven Fountains Gumboot Troupe originates from the Seven Fountains Community, which is located near Lalibela and consists of a group of children who range between the ages of eight and thirteen. These children attend the local school and holiday club and it is here where Charmain, Head of Lalibela Community Development, noticed their talent and love for dance.

During the holiday clubs, the girls would play and dance around and the boys would sit and admire the girls dancing. The boys then decided to practice a dance of their own and it was then when the Seven Fountains Gumboot Troupe was established.

After several weeks of practicing, the group entered their first dance competition. As this was their first appearance on stage, they were extremely nervous and had some stage fright. Despite not placing in the top 3, they still won a participation award. Charmain then took these boys under her wing and  to boost their confidence provided them with their uniforms and gumboots, which they would use to participate in more competitions.

Our guests thoroughly enjoyed this cultural dance and experience and left the group a generous gratuity. Any gratuities that are left for the group are used towards a celebratory outing of their choice. For their next outing, the group decided that they would like to spend the day at a nearby hotel where they would have fun in the swimming pool and enjoy a traditional South African braai!

The children have come a long way from starting off with stage fright, to ending a performance with enthusiasm and smiles. It has been heart warming to see how they have blossomed into charismatic and confident young men.

Our staff were also treated to a traditional Ethiopian experience of their own where they got to observe a traditional method of preparing coffee. Ethiopian coffee ceremonies are common after large meals. Women will roast Ethiopian coffee beans in front of others while they watch. She will then grind the beans and brew them in a clay coffee pot, known as a jebena. Once the coffee has been brewed, it is served in small cups called si’ni. The rangers who got to experience this traditional method of coffee making said that this was the best coffee they have ever tasted and seeing that coffee originated from Ethiopia, who could disagree!

At Lalibela we love to welcome guests from all over the world as we get to experience their different cultures and traditions. It is incredibly fulfilling to showcase some of our local cultures to our guests so that they leave with a small piece of Africa in their hearts!

In search of more reading? Read about symbiosis – The Art of living together!