“Go tapa-tapa” says Thabang Dingatha as he does the original version of the Setapa dance which was first performed before even he was born. An enthusiastic character who is passionate about preserving a dance that he believes is symbolic and a form of praise and gratitude to the Batswana ancestors. As he claps his hands and stomps the ground, he explains how the name Setapa is derived from the phrase go tapa-tapa used by the Batswana people to imply stomping the ground. He reminisces of a time when he would watch people, young and old do the dance and how the dance was passed down to him by his grandfather who ensured that as young as they were, they had to learn how to do it.

Today, however, he wonders why young people are not keen to learn this dance, a dance that carries such a rich history for the Batswana people. He mentions how the Setapa dance originates from the Bangwaketse tribe but was later adopted by other Batswana tribes.

As he took us on a journey around a small village in the North West called Matlwang, we met Mma Maria Ditlhokwe, an elderly lady who showed us how to make Diphamphathana, sandals usually worn by men. She mentions how, due to the sad reality that people are moving away from tradition and culture, she had to find modern ways of making the sandal from materials such as car tyres. However, she does pride herself in still using the traditional antelope skin. On her feet were the female sandals called Dikhube, ones she made herself using skin you would get from the head of an ox. She also explains how with the sandals she would wear the Diphaenyana, a skirt usually worn to perform the dance. Thabang adds that while some males still wear animal skin with shin guards made from animal skin, others prefer much longer shorts called Motseto.

Setapa - Castle Milk Stout

The two then jovially demonstrate how the dance is performed slightly different by the women, so while Thabang stomps his feet and claps his hands, Mma Maria stomps her feet as well, but her hands are in the air and her waist is moving to the rhythm of the whistle she keeps around her neck coupled with the shells around her ankles, also made from animal skin.

“It’s very important that this knowledge is kept safe. We want this culture to grow in our community and even the whole country and we can only do this by teaching the upcoming generation so that they understand why we do this,” adds Thabang.