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June 2011

era, gumboot dancing evolved, and from those first humble strides it has made its way into the widely popular arena of entertainment. Migrant workers from the scattered rural areas, called the homelands or bantustans, flocked to the gold mines in the Witwatersrand, (the golden rock beltway, which covers much of the state of Gauteng and skirts the city of Johannesburg) with dreams of earning more money than they could ever hope to find back home. Many arrived speaking only their own languages, but with the need to communicate with their fellow workers and understand the commands from their foremen, they resorted to a type of pidgin, based mainly on Zulu with the odd English and Afrikaans word tossed in. It’s called Funagalo – loosely translated as “goes like this”. Funagolo lives on, although it is probably not used quite so much now.

Mine Dancing in South Africa D

eep down in South Africa’s gold mines, before and during the apartheid

meant wading through streams of water, the mine workers were eventually provided with waterproof boots or gumboots. Since rhythm and music are such vital components in the lifestyle of African people, it didn’t take long for the rhythmic chink of the chains and the slapping of boots in the water to inspire a set of choreographed steps accompanied by lusty verses, often deriding the same bosses who looked on indulgently with no idea of the contents of the songs!

Legend has it that miners worked in miserable conditions. They were chained to each other and frequently flogged by nervous supervisors, desperately attempting to wield control over gangs of men between whom there was little rapport and less respect. The mine floors became flooded as men worked their way deeper underground and since this

Another legendary source for the origins of the gumboot dance dates back to early 19th century Austrian missionaries in the province of Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) who were reputedly uncomfortable with the lively gyrations of the native dancing, and urged them to tone it down a bit. Consequently dock workers from the coastal ports devised other means to channel their exuberance. Gumboots were a necessary part of their attire – so by adapting the thigh and boot slapping of the Tyrolean folk dances, they not only appeased their critics, but at the same time took the opportunity to poke fun at them with irreverent verse in their own local languages. Amusing but not highly likely.

own universal appeal. It reaches out globally, not only in musical productions, but amongst


umboot dancing is often incorporated into tribal dancing displays, but it has its


private groups and troupes in many parts of the world. It is enjoyed on city streets and it’s not uncommon to see office workers slapping their imaginary boots during a brief lunch break. With eleven official languages, perhaps South Africa could add a couple more – Funagalo and the Gumboot Dance!

Christine Robb, Visitor Just a Nibble: Danby Bloch on bargaining

he knew it – and he was not worried whether he bought or not – at least that was the impression he succeeded in conveying. In fact, as I found out after he had been very eager to buy.


e were just about to conclude the deal after discussing the price for some time, and my

purchaser suddenly made a last minute demand – it was a very small thing in the context of the overall price but it pleased him immensely. I was selling a car in Oxford and I was forced into giving him a car-mat that I had previously intended to keep and put into the replacement car. So he had got a small extra benefit, simply by betting that I would not want to break the deal for such a minor cost to me. Afterwards, he told me that the name for such a last minute demand was ‘the nibble’. And every good negotiator would always insert a nibble wherever possible. The nibble gave my purchaser great pleasure – as much as derived from the considerable reduction he was able to win from me in the main negotiations about price. For the truth was that I was keen to sell – and

Such are the basics of negotiation. There are realities that you can betray or conceal and there are impressions that you can convey or interpret. Each side must take chances and bet on their instincts about their opponent’s economic position. If they aren’t prepared to lose the deal, they must be prepared to pay too much or sell for too little. It is the same the whole world over; mother of pearl ware in Bethlehem or wooden giraffes in Cape Town, you have to negotiate.


nd so it was when I aimed to buy a Moroccan rug in the souk of Marrakech. In my favour

was time for I had more or less written off the morning. Against me was serious ignorance about the value or quality of the rug I was trying to buy. There was also a lingering doubt that I was a rich foreigner and he was a poor carpet salesman and should I really be squeezing him for every last dirham? Also against me was the

fact that none of the carpets were priced, so there was not even a slightly objective starting point. In a British antique shop it is customary to ask whether the seller “could take something off the price”; for virtually all antique prices are inflated by at least 10% on the basis that everyone would ask for “something off”.

There are rituals in bargaining and they vary from country to country. The offering of biscuits, sweet mint tea is an assurance of friendship and trustworthiness. The movement away towards the door with a shrug of the shoulders is a negative signal; but it involves a risk that the other party might let you exit in ignominy and not take you gently by the elbow to steer you back to the mint tea and continuing negotiations.

We reached a price, the carpet seller and I, after a two hour negotiating stint. And I tried for for a final small triumph. “You could throw in one of those carpet bags. For free.” He couldn’t do that, he said; they were all reserved, but he did give me a very handsome velvet pin cushion. I didn’t want it; and he might have given it to me anyway. But I did not care; I had got my nibble.

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