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Wither the beloved Tsutsube?

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Ever since the Tsutsube dance took centre stage in traditional dance forums, the craft according to its natural dancers is regrettably losing its core owing to improvisation especially by non-Basarwa dancers. Rebaone Tswiio of BOPA writes about the beginning of the end for the Sesarwa dance.

Any kind of dance, or even a song, has its own peculiar historical setting that serves as a boundary never to be eroded in the display of the act. And this rule of thumb applies purely to maintain the unique identity of the performance.

However, the song or dance, experts say, has also to move with the times and transform to suit contemporary audiences albeit without losing the historical touch that shapes the nucleus of the song and dance.

Tsutsube as an absolutely Sesarwa dance has of late undergone various forms of improvisation, which Basarwa feel have corroded the nub of the dance.

This is a type of dance whose essence is in most times a fox trot feet rhythm on a somewhat three pulse measure scale, where backers clap scattered fingered palms to produce a sound tone that, coupled with a sound repetitive verse song, drives dancers into a trance.

Its dancers now allege that mainline Setswana speakers have infused their setapa dance into tsutsube and as a result diluted the sacrosanct fabric of the art.

Owaii, e senyegile tsutsube rra, mme ebile go tla dubegela pele ka gore yanong go gaisanwa ka yone go dirwa madi,” regrets 38 year old Morgan Serema of Inalegolo settlement, a solely Basarwa settlement, decrying the destruction of tsutsube ever since it became commercial.

Serema is a founder member of the popular Inalegolo Traditional Dance troupe whose only stock in trade is tsutsube dance which they have been mastering since 2002. They have continuously monopolised the tsutsube category in the national Presidential traditional dance competitions, dominated any other tsutsube forum and have as a result toured outside the country in the promotion of their art.

Ke ithutetse go bina mo lwapeng ka gore batsadi bame le bo rremogolo ba ne ba e tshasa re ntse re itisitse fa molelong, rona ra bo re ba etsa go fitlhelela re nna dibini tsa tlhwatlhwa fa bone ba tsofala,” Serema says noting that tsutsube runs in his family lineage where he learnt the dance.

His co-dancer Teko Somote, 27 also reiterates that the artistic lines between tsutsube and setapa have become so blurred that he fears for the worst.

For instance, he says, it is wrong to wear a jackal or fox hide when dancing tsutsube as there is no historical relation between the two.

On stage attire, reasons Somote, somehow depicts the cultural background of the performers as Setswana speakers who master setapa used to keep livestock which would as a result of a clash with predators lead to them having predator hides.

Phokoje rra o aparwa ko setapeng, rona ka tlholego borre ba suga letlalo la phuduhudu kgotsa phuti go dira motseto ka gore ne re sa tsome dibatana,” says Somote emphasizing that Basarwa men traditionally wear a duiker hide instead of any predator.

Owing to numerous government restrictions on the hunting of wild animals, Somote says, they have now resorted to using a goat hide as it is the nearest to a duiker in terms of colour, texture and durability.

The two dancers also submit that unlike what has become popular in traditional dance competitions, tsutsube dancers do not decorate their upper body with any artefacts as is the case with other dances where the body is cluttered with decorations.

At most, they say, men will only carry koma which is a cylindrically shaped container for hunting spears.

Even wearing the rattles (matlhoa) in tsutsube has now shifted more towards setapa display as the two dancers argue that tsutsube rattles go up to knee high in pure Sesarwa as opposed to the bulky sheen level rattles of setapa.

Due to the sometimes nerve wrecking preparations for lucrative competitions nowadays, Serema says, choreography becomes so intricate, or at worst very timid that it falls far from being classed as tsutsube.

Mo tsutsubeng kana ga gona sebini le molebeledi, rotlhe re nna le sebaka sa go diragatsa ka go latelana ga rona,” submits Serema on the point that in a tsutsube troupe everyone dances wherever he is positioned.

Absolute uniformity of the dancers, he says, is not an essential part of the dance as everyone falls into a spiritual trance at his own time and therefore reacts differently to the feeling.

Ko mebinong e mengwe jaaka setapa ke teng ko go tsamaelanwang ka matsetseleko, le seditsi se tsholediwa ka nako ele nngwe ke dibini. Rona re tshasa tlhako re sesela, fa yo mongwe a tsholetsa seditsi, wena oka nna wa tlhoma ka tlhogo pina e go duba maikutlo.”

When it comes to the actual performance on stage, Serema says that is where anything that can be salvaged gets completely lost.

The display of the song plus the accessories used, are actually what poses Basarwa tradition to threats of being diluted.

For instance Basarwa traditionally have never used traditional divine bones (ditaola) to diagnose and heal would be patients.

Instead their healer, known as sedupe, uses his hands and mouth for both diagnosis and healing and further dispenses medication sourced from the vegetation and animals.

Mme malatsing ano otla bona batho ba bina tsutsube, ba gasakaka ditaola, ba alafa ka dinoga mme rona ka Sesarwa re ise re dire jalo ka nako epe.”

The essence of any tsutsube performance according to the two dancers, is so spiritual that if done right, dancers should fall into a trance of some sort which cannot happen in the ten minutes given per group during competitions.

So far, the constituency competitions use a standard score sheet for all various types of cultural dance which include tsutsube, setapa, phathisi, polka, seperu, dihossana and many others.

Main points that will make or break a traditional troupe under the current requirements are rhythm, dancing and style which would delve around hand clapping, dancing shape and formation, coherence, speed, leg and body movement.

The effectiveness of props is judged on the use of rattles, drumming, ululations and the whistle.

As things are, Basarwa will have to up their tempo to rescue their tradition from the sharp teeth of commerce, and Serema and Somote’s fear is that soon the language of the dance will become irrelevant as most people believe the winning troupe simply has to rhythmically clap hands to chants of uwe uwe, aiye uwe uweENDS


Source : BOPA

Author : Rebaone Tswiio


Event : Feature

Date : May 22 Wed,2013


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