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TThe final stage of a young Nama 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'.
A 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 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 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'.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Eksteenfontein Info Centre
Volenti van der Westhuizen
Tel: +27 (0)27 851 7108
Tel: +27 (0)73 651 8833
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.
Things to do
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 pack
Ask your tour operator if there’s anything specific you should bring. ATMs might be scarce so make sure you have some cash on you.
What to eat
Most accommodation is self-catering, so it's advisable to take your own food, which you can purchase in Springbok.