Traditional dancers find captive audience

Peer Mkhonto, the leader of a group of traditional dancers.


Peer Mkhonto, the leader of a group of traditional dancers that regularly performs at functions in the Kruger National Park, is now less reliant on the unpredictable scheduling of events in the lowveld. Peer and his group of orphans, the Ronaldsey Youth Cultural Traditional Dancers, are enlightening guests at the Hippo Hollow Country Estate about Shangaan culture, where they regularly perform in the boma. General manager of Hippo Hollow, Andre Visagie, says, "We tried three or four different groups and Peer was the best."

Acting as the chief, Peer gives the estate's guests a taste of Shangaan culture in more ways than one he describes to them the history and culture of his people, and gives them the opportunity to sample a calabash of homebrewed mageu, or maize beer. Peer's group of orphans then perform their traditional dances. When the performance is over, the guests are invited down to learn the dance steps that would be taught to youngsters becoming dancers. The guests later enjoy a dinner laced with traditional Shangaan foods.

"We consulted with Peer and created a menu that would appeal to a broad spectrum of people." Such delicacies as roast pumpkin seeds, mopani worms, marulas, marogo, roast marhupu (a type of potato), braaied mealies, pap and sheba and samp and beans are all on the menu. These are complemented by more traditional European fare. While the guests are eating, Peer gets a chance to go round and talk to them about his Aids awareness programme, and the orphanage that he looks after in his home village.

Andre says that many of the guests then contribute towards Peer's good works. He says that he is hoping that if the Shangaan River Club venture flourishes, he will be able to continually employ Peer. "We are hoping to be able to start a small curio shop stocking beadwork items that ladies in the hospital have made to raise funds for Aids patients." Hippo Hollow decorates its tables with the beadwork, and hope to be able to raise more money for the hospital in this way.



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