The final stage of a young Nama’s girl’s entry into womanhood is celebrated by the staging of the 'Nama Stap', a wonderfully gentle, slow dance of the Richtersveld. This is the chance for her beau to make an impression and 'dance her from under the sheltering arms of her chaperones'.

Did you know?

Eksteenfontein, which once had the unfortunate name of Stinkfontein ('stink fountain'), lies near the Richtersveld World Heritage Site.

The little troupe of teenage girls and boys gathers to dance the 'Nama Stap' (which literally means 'Nama step') on a hillside of a tiny village called Eksteenfontein in the Richtersveld, Northern Cape.

The girls all wear billowing dresses and head scarves. The boys have never looked so smart.

The music, played on an old tape recorder, is catchy. It sounds like hip-hop with an offkey twist. On special occasions the local band – a trio of doughty musicians – will accompany them. The Eksteenfontein String Orchestra has been going for more than 20 years – with the same members, who are all self-taught. The 3 men get together every Saturday night for practics before church the next day.

The Nama Stap, a type of line dance, begins with a lot of buoyant movement and gliding steps, that make circles within circles. It’s a very courtly, gentle dance – like an outdoor quadrille for gentlefolk of the country.

The Nama Stap is danced at any celebration, but the most important one is the final stage of a young Nama girl’s 'coming out' into womanhood.

At her first menstruation she is taken aside and ensconced in a matjieshuis (reed hut) and cared for by the elder women of the community, who teach her how to be 'a proper Nama woman'.

She stays in the matjieshuis for a whole month, and is pampered. The older women also put substances on her skin to make it whiter – of course she becomes paler being out of the sun, too. And when she finally comes out, they apply natural cosmetics on her skin, making her up to 'look like a springbok'.

Then comes the Nama Stap. She is introduced to the community again, and any man who really wants to marry her must be able to 'dance her out from under the sheltering arms of her chaperones'.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Eksteenfontein Info Centre
Volenti van der Westhuizen
Tel: +27 (0) 851 7108
Email: tic@lantic.net

Richtersveld Tours
Email: mail@richtersveldtours.co.za

How to get here

Up the N7, left at Steinkopf and north-west to the villages. The biggest town in this area is Springbok. Eksteenfontein is 140km from Springbok, not on the best of roads. Allow for 2 hours' driving time.

Best time to visit

At the change of seasons (April/May and August/September), when the weather is least extreme.

Around the area

The towns of Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay make good day trips.

Tours to do

Richtersveld Tours is a well-reputed operator in the area.

Where to stay

The various villages all have community hospitality initiatives.

What to eat

Most accommodation is self-catering, so it's advisable to take your own food, which you can purchase in Springbok.

What's happening

Check with the Nama Foundation as to dates of festivals.