Friday, December 6, 2013

Is Twerking an African or an American Dance?

Is Twerking an African or an American Dance?
“Rev do you agree that twerking began in America, and do you think that our kids should dance it?”
I feel disheartened to read that twerking began in Florida.[1] That is very untrue! It is a style of dance that came from Africa; especially from the Manyu people that was danced exclusively by virgins. It was called Monikim[2] and later evolved to other names. Bate Nico, the African King of folklore has snipets of it in this video.[3] The woman prostrated her head and lifted her buttocks a little bit up and then gyrated both buttocks to whatever rhythms that were played. They were always dressed in yellow dresses, red skirts and a green piece of cloth crossed over their shoulders with lots of beads to produce the music. The Banyang have danced Monikim as long as they have lived in Manyu. This was before even the advent of colonialism. There is no beauty for the woman to dance without gyrating and twerking her buttocks. It was never a taboo dance. It was amplified by Oriental Brothers[4] who were people of the nearby Calabar in Nigeria as these two groups are even interrelated. This treatise is to unveil the evolution of the dance in Africa throughout the ages. Permit that I repeat myself in the excerpt below from one of my articles.
A former classmate from Mbeva quarters in Ntenako City was selected to become a Monikim dancer. Firstly, she had to be trained for six months in a locked down situation where she appeared outside only to be taught how to dance and gyrate her hips. The lady that was selected was not the tadpole type without bherackghanet (lustful buttocks). She had it all in one package that when she swang it to her left then to her right everyone fell the jingling of the beads on her waist or as her behind swung “jiggiri jiggiri.”[5] The people gathered, sang and watched everyone learn how to dance. The young men hovered around trying to pick up young girls for mami and papa. It was usually a time of diversion for the young people, and she was usually like a role model whom most young girls wanted to emulate. They coordinately gyrated their hips like whirligigs to the musical rhythm played from locally made drums and flutes. The Monikim disciple wore foot bells that jingled and produced a subtle and soothing music as she dances.[6] She also had beads on her neck and a red hat with feathers and beads. Dancing Monikim was not for adventurers, wanabes or even impostors because any defiance was rewarded with a heavy fine. [7]

It is great to see that it has evolved to the whole world to a level where foreigners like Miley Cyrus have incorporated it into their dance routines. The only unfortunate thing is that our own very Miley Cyrus does not even have the butt she is trying to swing or Twerk with. As you trace the Slave Routes and plantations so too will you find twerking. In Brazil, the same dance the Banyang call Belle Sumbu or Band Dance is what they call Lambada. The Brazilian Lambada is the equivalent of the Bayang’s Belle Sumbu or Band Dance or the North West Bottle Dance. It is not the same as twerking. Again, it is important to note that even the Surinamese dance by twerking.[8] Twerking is typically a Bantu dance style. The African migrants try to replicate these relics each time they came together.[9] 
In the Mid 2000s, the Congolese will drop in Ndombolo.[10]  Ndombolo was initially censured in all of central Africa for indecency. In late 2000s, DJ Mix and DJ Eloh had a hit song which was also a dance style called Bobaraba.[11] This will take us into the Early and late 21st Century. There was no major difference with the earlier dance moves, but it did show that the people in the Congo Basin all dance the same: twerking.[12] I mean even the mentally ill, twerk.[13]  Koffi Olomide amplified it.[14] As time went on, young African males due to the lack thereof of fancy buttocks to gyrate like their female counterparts, incorporated fanciful leg movements to keep the contest alive. However, those who could still twerk, did it. Take a look at the movement of their hips and buttocks too and you will see that twerking seems to run in their blood.[15]
In such historical cyclicism, the Ivoirians again will introduce the dance style called Ndombolo which is twerkign another form.[16] In the late 80s, the Ivoirians will introduce a new dance called Logobi which went with gyrating the waist and some leg moves.[17] At this time too, the Congolese were not going to be outdone as people like Danny Engobo kept the dream alive.[18] Another young Congolese too whose dancers twerked way before the Americans even thought about it was Awilo Longomba.[19] 
In the 80s, it was called Soukous.[20].  If you watched Chantal who danced with Kanda Bongo Man, then you will understand better.[21] The Sierra Leonians called it Shakam[22] which was a mixture of  Soukous and Ndombolo because they being the byproducts of free slaves came back with the remnant of the twerking they had in their veins and the western style of dance they assimilated during the process.
Back to Cameroon where the dance actually started, I want to run through a couple of tribes who dance merely by twerking. Gyrating with the waist is just an African dance that in almost every tribe in Cameroon most of them dance only with the waists and buttocks like the Bassa Assiko dancers.[23]
The Congolese will actually transform it from a female dance to a unisex dance as demonstrated by Djouna Mambafu.[24] In Africa, twerking has since evolved greatly from a female dance to even males, and this year again Petit Pays demonstrated that.[25]You could not talk about this era without mentioning Werrason.[26] The Chadians call it the Pigeon Dance because they winded their buttocks and flipped their hands like the pigeons flip their feathers.[27]. Even the Sudanese Bridal Dance consists of women girating their buttocks.[28] In Mombassa, they call it Chakacha.[29]
In the late 20th century, then came the dance called Coupé-Décalé, introduced and highlighted by Ivoirians émigrés.[30] Twerking became more accentuated and other aspects were incorporated into the moves like swinging the head. Werrason again will incorporate the Zulu dance moves that will take Africa by storm.[31] 
After Coupé-Décalé came, Mapouka which was still twerking but more towards twerking in striptease format.[32] Mapouka will even go a step further than Ndombolo. Do not forget that it was totally an Ivoirian traditional dance. The West called it African Booty dance.[33] Mapouka consisted mainly of shaking the buttocks in seminude bodies.[34] Women with little or no buttocks relegated themselves to clappers and left those with huge behinds to entertain the people.[35] 
Therefore, it is well established that twerking is not an American dance and did not originate from America. How can a dance that Americans just found out in the 2006 begin in America when the same dance was reigning in Africa since the 18th Century? In addition, there is nothing bad with twerking as the dance initially did not harbor any malice. It has always been used for pleasure and to excite feelings, the purpose for which we entertain. What is any work of art that does not touch the audience or participants? The purpose of twerking in most of our African dances was to incite a feeling of love for one’s husband or wife. It will be pleasurable for wives and husbands to twerk for each other, peradventure it becomes the missing link in their insipid relationship. Consequently, I will encourage twerking for anyone who can and wants to!

Until then, twerking originated from Africa, and there is nothing wrong with it.

St Arrey of Ntenako.

“Bonyfish beware because the same net that caught the jawless fish, caught the cartilaginous fish” (Hamilton Ayuk). Beware earthly paradise seekers because there is a serpent in every paradise"(Hamilton Ayuk). "It is not how well you know a person; it is how well you treat them that they will live longer and happier with you." Idle people write, idler people read, and idlest people read and whine that idle people are taking their time (Hamilton Ayuk).

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