Kuru Dance Festival

Traditional dance festival of the San, or Basarwa

The Kuru Dance Festival is organized by the Kuru Cultural Center and takes place every August. The festival celebrates the traditional dance style of Botswana’s first people, who are referred to as Basarwa, San or Bushmen. The Basarwa were pushed out into the Kalahari Desert by settlements and animal preservations. By institutionalizing the practice of traditional dance in the form of an annual festival, the Kuru Cultural Center has attempted to give the San people an opportunity to display their cultural heritage.

Where

The Kuru Dance Festival takes place at the Kuru Development Trust in D’Kar, which is approximately 22 miles (35 kilometers) north of Ghanzi in the Kalahari Desert. People travel from all over the nation and from around the world to see the Basarwa practice their native dance.

What

Traditional dance from the people of the Ghanzi District and western Botswana is performed and celebrated at the Kuru Dance Festival. While many events take place throughout the year for children to practice and share traditional dance, this festival began as the only place for adults to do so.

In addition to dance, the sound of the Kalahari comes alive at this festival as traditional musicians share the music of ages past.

When

The Kuru Dance Festival began in 1997 and has been held in August annually ever since. It lasts for three days.

Why

Although the main purpose of the Kuru Dance Festival is to foster people’s faith in their own traditional culture, the Kuru Cultural Center also hopes to encourage respect for different cultures through the sharing of the San practices.

Some westerners are surprised to see the native Basarwa remove their traditional clothing in favor of street clothes after their performances are over. However, while many Basarwa still practice their traditional hunting-and-gathering way of life, there are many who can no longer support their families effectively that way. The street clothes they wear are a testament to a changing lifestyle. After 300,000 years, the traditions of this group are fading, making the Kuru Cultural Center’s efforts all the more important.

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