Twerking, the hip thrusting, waist wining, booty popping dance most prominent in hip-hop videos, became widely popular when DJ Jubilee combined the words “twist” and “jerk” in his song, Do The Jubilee All, in 1993. The word was even added to the Oxford dictionary in 2015.
Twerking may have gotten its name from the bounce craze of early 1990s New Orleans, but its origins are decidedly African.
As Kelechi Okafor, a twerk instructor in South London, whose recent story about practising twerking through trauma revealed, the dance has roots in West Africa, where traditional dances of the same style are not hyper-sexualized, as it is today. In fact, twerking was used to honor, celebrate, and inform.
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The traditional dance Mapouka, popular in south-east Ivory Coast, is said to draw dancers closer to God. Similar to “la danse du fessier” or “the dance of the behind (buttocks)”, the dance is performed at celebratory festivals, where women shake their buttocks vigorously, isolating their butt from the rest of the body. People often argue that Mapouka is the origin of modern-day twerking.
Here are 3 other traditional African dances that show the “butt dance” supersedes the hyper-sexualization it has received of late.