Zumba Like a Giraffe!

Ingonyama performing in the dining hall at Antelope Park

Ingonyama performing in the dining hall at Antelope Park

On our first night at Antelope Park we were told a traditional African dance group was going to perform after dinner.  While that sounded like something not to miss, we were so tired from our travels and the excitement of meeting the lions and so many new people, in addition to still needing to unpack, shower, and be ready to work at 6:30 the following morning, that we decided to miss the performance in the hopes that with two weeks still ahead of us we’d get another chance.  As fate would have it, just two days later we did get our chance to see the nine-member dance, singing, and drama group, Ingonyama – which means “Lion, King of the Beasts” in the Ndebele language.  (We would discover that they would perform at AP whenever there were a large number of “clients” in camp.)

The members of Ingonyama hail from Dete, Zimbabwe, which is near Hwange National Park, and have been friends since childhood, having grown up together in an orphanage.  They started out performing at lodges near Hwange and also at Victoria Falls.  That was when Zimbabwe still attracted tourists.  In recent years, tourism has dropped to negligible numbers due to the political situation, and yet the group perseveres by traveling around the country, performing for tips and selling CDs and t-shirts.  They also use their talents and sense of humor to help educate school children about problems in the country such as HIV/AIDS and wildlife conservation, and they work closely with youth camps at Painted Dog Conservation near their hometown.

Ingonyama’s performance for us at AP included brilliant a cappella harmonizing, energetic dancing, and humorous animal mimes.  By imitating animal sounds and using movement and facial expressions – doubling and tripling up to create height and girth as needed – they cleverly mimicked lions, giraffes, ostriches, baboons, elephants, and more.  It was delightful and impressive, and put a smile on everyone’s face.  Check out their giraffe and baboon imitations in this video clip.

As an avid Zumba enthusiast, it was really fun for me to recognize many of their dance steps as moves we do in class.   Zumba was created in Latin America, but Latin America has African influences.  In fact, my favorite instructors are Afro-Brazilian, so I guess it’s not surprising that I would see familiar dance moves while watching a traditional African dance group in the Zimbabwe midlands.  You can see a few of Ingonyama’s Zumba-like moves here.  We don’t do all those fancy kicks in class, though!

The finale of the performance was when the group brought up members of the audience and everyone danced together, attempting to follow the dancers moves with the drums beating wildly.   I was far enough in the back not to get pulled up against my will, and too shy, despite my addiction to Zumba, to go up on my own even though it was obvious how much fun everyone was having.  Rumor has it they might be back, so maybe I’ll get another chance!

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