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The Johnnie Walker of Maputsoe


Mohau Serabele


ON most Friday afternoons, the industrial town Maputsoe is abuzz with activity.

The streets of the town get flooded with women, who soon after getting their weekly wages from the factories, rush into town to do their Friday shopping.

In the midst of these melee, there is the unusual figure of a man impeccably dressed in white suit and tie.

This is Phello Ramolla (36) from Tsikoane Leribe. What is particularly striking about him is his white Michael Jackson style top hat, positioned at a tilted angle on his head.

He is regularly seen walking around town with a curved handle walking stick, or Rotang as it is commonly called.

Every Friday in the afternoon, Ramolla walks into the streets of Maputsoe to perform his special cane dance moves. Although he could not give a formal name to his popular dance style, his performances and clothing look very much similar to those worn in South Africa’s Sophiatown back in the 1960s.

His dances are a mixture of the Michael Jackson break dances and the popular South African Mapantsula jive. Ramolla blends these two dances in an entertaining way that has made him one of the popular figures in the areas of Maputsoe and Hlotse.

Throughout his fascinating dances movements, he keeps juggling his Rotang with either his hands or feet. He throws the stick up into the air and catches it on its way back to the ground.

“I love working with the stick,” Ramolla said. “In fact, this stick is my only companion throughout the show and I love it dearly.”

According to Ramolla, he has been dancing for the factory workers since 2004.

“This is my occupation as I have no other job and how I earn a living,” he told Xpress People after one of his electrifying dance performances on Friday.

His dance moves have endeared him with women in particular, who frequently ululate as he performs.

Due to his stylish dressing and movement, Ramolla has earned the nickname Johnnie Walker.

“Many people say I look much like the character with a walking stick on a bottle of Johnnie Walker,” he said.

“For as little as M2, I happily hold a performance for anyone willing to pay.”

Ramolla was first introduced to this form of dancing by his late grandfather.

“I grew up in Vosloorus in South Africa and back then, as a little boy, I would watch my grandfather doing the dance moves with the cane stick,” he said.

Despite his grandfather being frail due to old age, he was still able to perform the dances.

“I must say I am glad because I learned a lot from him,” Ramolla said.

Proud with his craft, Ramolla said he does not feel sorry for himself because he is unemployed. Before 2004, Ramolla said he had tried several times to find formal employment with no success.

“I had to find other means of making a living, I then decided to go to the streets and do the dancing,” Ramolla said, adding that since then he never looked back.

“I am happy so far because I am able to make enough money to look after myself and my ageing mother, for me this is better than being unemployed.”

On a “good” day, Ramolla said he can walk away with as much as M150.

“For me that is good money given that I generate it all by doing what I love most; dancing,” he said, mopping off the sweat dripping on his forehead.

In a town that is bedevilled by crime and unemployment Ramolla or Johnnie Walker remains a source of good cheer in the Maputsoe.



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