Gumboots are like wellington boots, the kind worn to walk through puddles or mud. As conditions in many South African mines were sometimes knee-deep water, gumboots were necessary attire.
Gumboot Dancing was born of restrictions, resourcefulness, and the love of dance. Black African miners used to talk, sing and drum when they worked. But authorities punished the miners for these activities. A new form of communication was born! In their gumboots, some affixed with bells, the miners stomped out coded messages to each other. You can imagine “The boss is coming” was one such message.
Gumboot dancing is still used in the mines. But you can witness it above ground as well – in plazas where tourists congregate such as the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.