Zambia: Dance with Me

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll around me I see the red dust of the Zambian earth. I look down and see that my feet are completely covered in it- this is nothing new, the dust here gets into everything and after two months in the village I am used to my feet being permanently caked in red. Sitting on the ground between the water hole and the big baobab tree, there is a crowd of people around me.

Today is a big day for the village and nearly everyone had gathered in what I call the village square. Today the military is sending a team of people to the village to talk to the community about corruption and voting rights. A few months ago an election for a seat in parliament turned quite nasty, with candidates buying votes and rampant corruption.

In an effort to save face the President declared the election results void, and ordered them to be held again. His solution to decrease corruption, which I think is brilliant, is dancing policeman and soldiers. In my opinion this is pure genius, it will definitely score the president major points with the rural population as it provides them with one thing they are desperate for. Entertainment. Village life is really, really quiet. I think the biggest event of the week was when about 50 village kids watched me doing my laundry. So the imminent arrival of Zambia’s finest to dance and perform a show is hot entertainment and not to be missed. Will it help prevent corruption and vote buying? Probably not, but you never know.

A large crowed has gathered was waiting for the performers arrival. Women sit chatting, their colorful chitange cloths wrapped around their waists and heads. Toddlers and young kids meander through the crowd; one of them wanders up to me and decides to sit in my lap. The older girls are braiding intricate dreadlock hairstyles on each other, and younger boys are playing football nearby. There are few men; most of the boys will only arrive after the performers do, so for now the village square is a girl’s only zone. The performers were supposed to arrive an hour ago, so they arrive right on Africa time, trundling up to the crowed in a dusty little Japanese made van. I am amazed with Zambian car packing skills, as a generator, several speakers, a table and fifteen people unload out of the tiny van.

The first act opens dramatically with loud Congolese rap blaring out of the speakers and the dancing policemen taking center stage. They whirl, they shake it, and they even throw in some Njuanja (local warrior) dance moves. The crowd is loving it; the people are clapping and chanting and every village child gets up on stage to join them. After their wildly successful opening act one of the soldiers takes a microphone and starts making a speech, my neighbor tells me that he is telling the people that voting is their right, that it is their duty to vote for who they think is best, and most importantly that their vote is secret. If your headman tells you to vote for one person that is corruption, and corruption eats at the soul of Zambia. I have to agree, corruption poisons the heart of this county. I see it when the taxi driver has to pay a bribe to the policeman to get past a roadblock, and when western mining companies strip the land bare of its natural resources without a penny to its people. In many ways Zambia’s political fortitude is amazing. They have endured civil wars raging on every border, floods of refugees, one of the highest AIDS rates in the world, low national income, and yet they have never had a civil war or dictator. And to tackle corruption, a problem that has brought other countries to chaos and conflict, their solution is dancing. In my mind, as a curly haired toddler sits in my lap watching the show, Zambia is doing OK.

About the Author, Kristi Young: Since graduating from university I have spent my time traveling and seeing the world. Mostly I have been working with refugees in the Middle East, though I greatly enjoyed my time in Africa. Traveling has been my passion for years, ever since my first overseas trip when I was 11. I am planning on traveling for another year or two before starting law school.

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