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A Step for RacingThePlanet.

A Step for RacingThePlanet.

Words: Alexandra Hamlyn




Sixteen locals from a settlement 150km away from the Fish River Canyon perform for RacingThePlanet participants.


As the sun rose over the dramatic landscape of the Fish River Canyon, melodic sounds began to drift into the campsite with a rhythmic hum, increasing in volume to gradually include claps and the stamping of feet to a tribal beat on the gravel underfoot. And as the song and dance gained momentum, it became clear that the competitors of RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009 were about to witness a very special performance.


Two Namibian men sat opposite each other dueling with keyboards, punching out an interesting mix of melodies and jives, and fourteen others entered the camp in pairs stepping and singing their way through the mass of onlookers. Both men and women were wearing their handmade, original take on traditional costume worn by the Nama People.


This special group of people had traveled more than 150km just to perform for the competitors, staff and volunteers of RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009.  With the support of the Namibian Tourism Board, the tribe of “!Gami!gâb” (‘!’ denotes a click) traveled from the town of Koes near Keetmanshoop in Southern Namibia. The name of the tribe means “Ostrich”, which was befitting seeing as many flocks of Ostriches had been sighted in the surrounding area of Camp 1. Mr. Clemens Hochobeb, the local representative of the Cultural Board who were raising money for orphans aged 12-16 years of age in the area through performances such as these, said “it is wonderful that they had the chance to share their culture with other people, and they are really happy to be here.” The enjoyment was reciprocal, and the entire crowd of spectators had smiles on their faces as they watched the performances with the majestic backdrop of the second largest canyon in Africa lit up by the morning sun.


RacingThePlanet passed out caps and Frisbees to the visitors, which they immediately sported and inspected. Armand Moller (Namibia) a volunteer with vast local knowledge of the area had some anecdotal and factual insight of the Nama people, of which this tribe is a part of. “There is a saying in the Nama culture that says, a Nama man should be so good at dancing that he can dance a woman out of her home without her parents noticing,” he said.


The most intriguing parts of the acapella performance were the intonations and inflections of the clicking sounds which the group lyrically sounded. “The Nama people learn a rhyme when they first learn to speak with all the different clicking sounds – there are many, maybe 20,” said Moller, “so from a very young age they learn all of them as part of their vocabulary.”


The grand finale of the hour long performance at camp was a sung blessing. Many were visibly moved by this heartfelt gesture. The lyrics of the blessing translated into, “Our Father, we are knocking on your door, please protect us.” But some things don’t get lost in translation, and as the light of the day began to grow in intensity, so did the emotion at the startline of Stage 1, RacingThePlanet: Namibia 2009.


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