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    Posted November 8, 2012 by
    Cape Town and Yzerfontein, South Africa

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    The First Dance


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     These remarkable images and video from iReporter nealmoore document a visit to South Africa by Botswana dance troop Nca'a Nca'ase. The dance troupe are San, or Bushmen, indigenous people of Southern Africa who the specific "hunter/gatherer dance" that has been passed down from generation to generation of Bushmen for what anthropologists say could possibly be 30,000 years, our iReporter says. "No longer permitted to hunt by the Botswana government, the dance is one of the few expressions of their ancient culture they are able to enjoy - a manifestation of a culture that anthropologists believe to quite possibly be the oldest in the world," he says. The trip marked a series of firsts for the group, who had previously never been outside of their home country. The dancers had never seen the sea before, and the video included captures their delight as they experience the waters of the sea.
    - sarahbrowngb, CNN iReport producer



    By Neal Moore


    CAPE TOWN and YZERFONTEIN, South Africa (CNN iReport) -- They arrived into Cape Town Station having traveled approximately 1,400 miles by open truck and bus from the Bushmen settlement of New Xanagas, not far from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in rural Botswana. It was Nca'a Nca'ase's first visit to South Africa, their first experience navigating a major city, and their first glimpse of the sea.


    The Bushmen, also known as San, were the first inhabitants of Southern Africa, made famous in the 1980's comedy film "The Gods Must Be Crazy" which showcased their life of simplicity in and around the Kalahari Desert. Traditionally a group of nomadic hunter-gatherers whose culture stretches back at least 44,000 years, the Bushmen have in the last century been forced to give up many of their traditional ways, save for one important aspect: the dance - a manifestation of a culture that anthropologists believe to quite possibly be the oldest in the world.


    Nca'a Nca'ase, which translates into the name of the group's settlement "New Xanagas" in their native Naro language, had been spotted by
    !Khwa ttu San Culture & Education Centre representatives at the Kuru Dance Festival in D'kar, Botswana earlier this year where they were asked to come to South Africa for their first international performance. Above and beyond the chance to perform in front of a multinational audience, the journey was significant as the group's ancestors once roamed these lands, and for many, reconnecting with South Africa was like coming home. "I'm so happy," explained Sarah Hendrick, the group's spokesperson. "It's a part of my history - it's 'Once Upon a Time'."


    For the journey to South Africa, the group were forced to source attire suitable for their special trip. "Nca'a Nca'ase" shirts were made and shoes were donated and once the group arrived, they were paid in cash for their upcoming performance - money that was carefully counted and split. On a trip to a local shopping center on the Cape West Coast of South Africa, the group purchased food for their time in the country, additional shoes, clothes, and even a cell phone.


    !Khwa ttu San Culture & Education Centre, a joint venture between the Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa (WIMSA) and the Swiss philanthropic UBUNTU Foundation, is located up the Cape West Coast not far from the town of Yzerfontein where the stage for the performance was set in nature, up atop a hill with commanding vistas over the region's fauna, flora, and sea. On hand for the performance were various dignitaries and academics, as well as members of South Africa's celebrated Jazzart Contemporary Dance Company, which bills itself as "the oldest contemporary dance company in the Cape, if not Africa."


    Prior to Nca'a Nca'ase's performance, the two respective dance companies got together in !Khwa ttu's exhibition gallery for an exchange of their own - the Bushmen teaching members of Jazzart their traditional dance. In return, two days later, Nca'a Nca'ase were invited to ArtsCape Performing Arts Centre to rehearse in contemporary step with Jazzart at their Cape Town based-studios. The workout proved to be a challenge, starting with their entry into the building. Led by security, on the way up to the 5th floor, I realized this was the group's first encounter with an elevator.


    The dance of the Bushmen has been passed down from generation to generation for untold millennia and it is the elders of New Xanagas who have meticulously taught the current members of Nca'a Nca'ase Traditional Dance Group. Life is hard and the road forward uncertain in Southern Africa for the Bushmen, whose numbers hover around 100,000 in parts of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Angola, and Zimbabwe. While many Bushmen youth are abandoning the traditions of the old, members of Nca'a Nca'ase are embracing it.


    Click through the tabs to view additional video and photographs featuring Nca'a Nca'ase:


    1. VIDEO: THE FIRST DANCE -- The Hunter & Gatherer Dance of the original inhabitants of Southern Africa -- Time 6:40


    2. PHOTO: A walk through the bush. Members of Nca'a Nca'ase dressed in traditional Bushmen attire make their way to the Boma for their first dance performance outside of Botswana. Photographed at !Khwa ttu San Culture & Education Centre, Cape West Coast, South Africa.




    4. PHOTO: Rebecca Hendrick, the leader of Nca'a Nca'ase Traditional Dance Group dances between Cukuri Xhao of Nca'a Nca'ase (Left) and trainee dancer Nkosinathi Sandile of Jazzart Contemporary Dance Company (Right).




    6. PHOTO: Tsau Dabe of Nca'a Nca'ase Traditional Dance Group (Left) marches in contemporary step with trainee dancer Tamsyn Spannenberg of Jazzart Contemporary Dance Company (Right) as instructor and choreographer Mziyanda Mancam encourages the dancers forward (Far Right).




    8. PHOTO: Amogelang considers the sea, Clifton Beach #4, South Africa. While some of her dance-mates brave the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean for a closer look, Amogelang takes a cautious step back. Nca'a Nca'ase come from New Xanagas, Botswana, a village of 500 mainly Bushmen settlers in the rural Kalahari Desert where it is often a chore to source water.


    9. VIDEO: SELECTED EXPEDITION OVERVIEW. A collection of video highlights of Nca'a Nca'ase's visit to South Africa including their arrival into and departure from Cape Town as well as additional commentary -- Time 5:27


    10. PHOTO: Group photo of Nca'a Nca'ase preceding their first performance outside Botswana. Photographed at !Khwa ttu San Culture & Education Centre, Cape West Coast, South Africa.

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