The power of the trance dance at Kuru Dance Festival

Kuru helps preserve and share our culture- San people


Apart from the well known desert safaris and adventure sports, the Ganzhi region offers a unique and opportinyi to the enagage with the ancient culture of the San who gather in the village to perform the trance or healing dance at the annual Kuru Dance Festival that also took place this past weekend. The festival commemorates the full moon, which is significant in the culture of the San who believe that during this period, they are able to heal the sick through the power they receive from song and dance. Scores of visitors congregated at the small village of D’Kar to witness this traditional Khoi San practice that has been passed on for generations.
“For us dance is of great importance as it has magical and sacred power. We compare it to a prayer addressed to the spirits of our ancestors. We have been practicing the healing dance for as long as I can remember to heal any ailments in our communities and to date we still hold on this tradition which is kept alive and shared through the Kuru Festival,” said Nxocai who is a member of the kg’aika Khoe group from New Xanagas.
Before the dance ensues, a big fire is lit in the middle of the performance arena under the full moon. Men and women draped in San traditional attire sit around the fire singing healing songs and clapping their hands to the rhythm of the music, while men dance around the bonfire. As the rhythm and the dance becomes more and more frantic, it sends some of the healers into a trance like state during which they are said to be in the spiritual realm. Then, with a high pitched cry they feel the moon’s energy awakening in them and they channel it to those who need healing and subsequntly fall into a full trance.
“It is a very painful experience to be in a trance because you consult with the spirits of the ancestors pleading to save the lives of those who may be ill. Anyone can be a spiritual healer. The music and the dance helps us to enter into a spiritual trance and we are able to communicate and channel the healing energy to the sick,” explained spiritual healer, Pau who also said the dance can last for many hours, if not all night to drive out the stubborn illnesses.
The trance or healing dance is a cultural phenomenon that remains sacred, and one that Barclays Bank of Botswana and other partners’ firmly believed needed to be commemorated and protected. Over the years the festival has been a means through which the rich culture and heritage of the Kalahari Bushmen was shared and celebrated.
“The Kuru Dance festival occurs annually at the sight of the full moon which we enjoyed in all its glory, illuminating the sky with its beauty, its bounty and indeed much more accordingly to Khoi San folklore. In traditional Khoi San custom dating back to many decades, this year is treasured for its ability to heal the sick through the song and dance performed under the light of the full moon,” said Managing Director of Barclays Bank, Reinette van der Merwe.
The people of D’kar introduced the cultural festival in 1997. Beyond mere cultural appreciation, there is intrinsic value in the festival and how it serves to grow and develop the local community and her people. “After all, as Johan Huizinga once said, if we are to preserve culture, we must continue to create it. In supporting and championing the growth of this festival we bring growth and investment for residents of the community. This comes in the form of enhanced opportunity for tourism, with local businesses both formal and informal benefitting from increased traffic in the area,” she added.