Pantsula is South Africa: young, urban, multicultural, and creative. A sub-culture shaping the identity of generations of youth growing up in the townships finding its most prominent expression in an explosive and inventive street dance form that came to prominence in the late 1980s. It was developed from a fusion of traditional and modern dance, Jazz and other music, and theatrical observations of everyday life’s gestures, such as mime, clownery, acrobatics and magical tricks. The pantsula community can trace its roots back to the 1940s and the legendary, multiracial Johannesburg suburb of Sophiatown and its famous writers, musicians and notorious gangsters. Pantsula has bridged the transition from apartheid to democracy to gain international recognition and acclaim making its way from the dusty streets of the townships onto theatre stages around the world. Becoming a member of a pantsula crew provides many talented young people with a much-needed social security structure, a rewarding activity, and promising career opportunity.
This is the first time in history that pantsula has been thoroughly documented and its history investigated. The name pantsula goes back to a Zulu word that means waddling like a duck or walking with protruded buttocks and refers simultaneously to the way the fashionistas of the 1970s used to parade along the streets of the townships and to the characteristic posture of slightly bending forward that is commonly found in most South African traditional dances. Pantsula dancers articulate their identity in specific poses or signature movements and fashion continues to play an important and highly symbolic role in the dance. The images capture all these components in a detailed manner.
The book is the result of 5 years of collective research, shared by Impilo Mapantsula, an organisation that unites and represents pantsula dancers, under the lead of dancer and choreographer Sicelo Xaba from Red for Danger and independent German researcher Daniela Goeller, and South African fashion and documentary photographer Chris Saunders. For over 4 years they visited the remote townships surrounding Johannesburg, recording the dance form through the voices and images of its current protagonists and tracing its roots back into the past, looking for evidence in the many stories they were told.
The images were taken in the streets of the neighborhoods where the crews are based and rehearse, and are staged collectively, following the lead of the dancers. Through the visionary design of Lorenzo Fanton, discover South Africa as you have never seen it and learn more about this vibrant and fascinating street culture: Join the international pantsula community by supporting this project and become a pantsula for life!