Isipantsula: The unchangeable Youth culture

by: Precious Ngwenya - 3 October 2018

Isipantsula: The unchangeable Youth culture

We take a look at the everlasting effects of Isipantsula as a cultural force

Unlike all the dance cultures we now have that come and go, Isipantsula has always remained the same. Instead of dying with the coming of the new Millenium, every generation has taken it and made it their own.

When the forced removals happened in the 1950s and 1960s, people in Sophiatown and Alexandra had to move to Soweto. They had to create an identity that represented them in the struggle; that’s when Isipantsula came about.

”The main objective for Isipantsula is identity,” said Mada Sthembiso a pantsula dancer featured on a Pantsula Documentary called Inside South Africa’s Cultural Movement, IsiPantsula.Isipantsula came as a response to the removals enforced by the government.

We spoke to a group of guys on the streets about the evolution of Isipantsula they said: “ Isipantsula as a dancer form it is slowly changing but as a culture, it will live on for ages because it’s the main influence for the Pop Cultures that we see emerging.”

Isipantsula initially started as a form of dance developed from the Sotho Mqanquanga and Marabi. Amapantsula chose to rebel against the Apartheid era in a form of dance, the choreography told a story about the misfortunes of a black young man during the oppression. Isipantsula did not stay just as a dance form it became the identity it was meant to be.

It gave birth to a language Tsotsitaal, which led to the biggest music genre in South Africa, Kwaito. Like every culture in the country, Isipantsula has its own traditional clothes: Dickies, Converse, and Brentwoods. Kota/Spatlo can be seen as the traditional food.

We need to understand that Isipantsula is a culture, a culture that gave the youth a voice before the internet and social platforms. When Amapantsula speaks, everyone listens; they have more influence than any influencer on the internet. “We were at a point where the representation of that side of life in the township was very scarce and Isipantsula became that voice for the people,” said Dada Khanyisa an artist inspired by Isipantsula.

Isipantsula is one of the few things that South Africans kept and preserved for the younger generation, the fact that it has it still remained strong in the times where hip-hop is taking over should prove to us as a country that this, not just a subculture, it’s a culture on its own caliber and needs to be celebrated in its own way. The new age kwaito artist like Kwesta and Cassper Nyovest are creating a subculture that is inspired by Isipantsula through their music videos, style, beat sampling and lyrics. We can see this in songs like Spirit and Gets-Getsa 2.0

“Pantsula for life” is a phrase that can be confidently said because Isipantsula will never die.