Pantsula dance emerged in South Africa in the 1950s/1960s as a response to the forced removals implemented by the Apartheid government. It began as groups of older men engaged in informal street dance competitions and gradually the dance form spread throughout the country. By the 1980s, pantsula was practiced by black South Africans of all ages and it was no longer limited just to men. The dance also began to develop more political overtones and was used as an expression of resistance during the political struggle then occurring against the Apartheid government, as well as being used to spread awareness about social issues such as AIDS.
The African Cypher (trailer below) is a beautiful film about pantsula today in South Africa. Here are a few notes from the filmmaker:
"We shot all over the country, spending months in Soweto, Orange Farm, Mohlakeng and the Cape Flats. We really tried to integrate ourselves into the lives of the dancers and the communities from a place of respect. ... We were very careful about how we approached the situation – as filmmakers we have the power of the camera and that is easily abused. People want to be on TV, want to be famous and it is easy to go in and exploit a culture with your camera and pull away with superficial footage. We wanted something deeper, we wanted to find out what fuels their passion and their fear, so we spent a lot of time at first just meeting people and hanging out in the communities, drinking with people, meeting their friends, their mom’s and elders and family. I only wanted our camera to go in when it could be followed by our hearts. It sounds cheesy but I believe that you have to care about the people you are filming or nothing special will come of it no matter how beautiful the shots." - Bryan Little
Read more about the film on OkayAfrica and watch the trailer below to see it for yourself.
UPDATE: We've received news that Prince Mofokeng, the poet and hero of this film is battling blood cancer while living in a shack in Soweto. Below is footage of Prince from the film, here is the Facebook page where you can stay up to date on his recovery process, and here is a link to donate and help directly.