I stop taking pictures for a minute,
and just listen to the sounds of the place: insects droning, children
chasing each other in the next baked-earth yard, and the low, soft burble
of the women laughing and chatting, enjoying one another's company as
they work. The language of the Ndebele is beautifully mellow with deep,
round syllables accented by a sprinkling of the clicks and squeaks of
the Zulu language from which it derives.
A basso note is added. Johanna is blowing into what appears to be
a drier vent hose while holding the other end up over her head, creating
a rhythmic tuba pulse as she takes her place in the curving line of dancers.
I can't resist. I have to start moving to the beat, doing my best
to imitate their steps--and friendly hands move me right into the middle
of the line. There is a brutal African sun overhead, and not a bit of
breeze, but the dance is slow, the exertion minimal, and I don't worry
about fainting. And then a woman who is not dancing brings me her headdress
and places it on me, with its bright loops of bead strings swinging under
my chin. Another woman is inspired to put her beaded scepter in my hand,
and somebody snaps a wide plastic neckpiece in place. Finally, a dancer
sacrifices her multicolored wool blanket to be draped around my shoulders.
We sing (I contribute to the occasional yeah-yeah-yeah). And we dance.
© Paola Gianturco and Toby Tuttle 2003-2009