Overcoming Odds, Dancing for a Cause

Author: Siya Mahomba
Photos: Bulumko Gana

Harare, a community in Khayelitsha, Cape Town is home to Kulcha Wockeyz, a group of five smart and talented dancers with big plans. Over the last five years, the crew has steadily gained fans from different parts of the world and received recognition from international stars such as Chad and G4 Boyz.  Locally, they have performed at some of Cape Town’s adored venues and events, won talent competitions, and shared stages with reputable names such as  Bravo Le Roux, Holy Alpha, and Dee Koala

According to Abulele Somlota, the founder of the dance crew, their growth can be attributed to their strategic use of social media. “The internet is a powerful tool, which can open many doors if used right. For us, social media was the only option to promote and market our art. It has helped us in ways we never would have imagined,” he says. 

The twenty-three-year-old Abulele and his friends, Linda Njokweni (29), Odwa Nyathi (21), Sinethemba Nodolo (20), and Siyavuya Sixhaso (19) established the crew in 2019. They quickly realized that social media would be their gateway to gaining recognition. 

“We taught ourselves the ins and outs of social media from content creation, video editing, and community engagement. Then we created pages on different platforms and started posting videos of our choreography. It took a while to take off, but before we knew it, we were getting comments from people as far as the UK!” shares Abulele. 

This is unsurprising because a Google search query of the crew’s name returns multiple links to their well-curated and consistent social media platforms. It is evident that these young artists not only understand the impact of social media, but they are also using it to their advantage. I’ll confess, I got carried away and spent time trying and failing to search for what a wockey is. 

“It’s a mashup of the words, ‘woke’ and ‘keys.’ These two words are a perfect description of the kind of people we are, as well as what we strive for,” explains Abulele. “We know the many social ills that affect young people’s community. Our biggest aim is to contribute towards eliminating these issues,” he adds. 

I am impressed by the clever use of words, of course. Still, I am more fascinated by their enormous ambition and willpower to drive social change despite the myriad of challenges they are personally faced with. Between the five of them, these young men have dealt with grieving the loss of parents, various mental illnesses, suicidal thoughts, addiction, and violence. As independent, young, and black artists from a less privileged environment, they also encounter many socio-economic constraints daily. 

“Although we try not to box ourselves, our dance style is contemporary and leans more towards hip hop. Unfortunately, that genre is still widely misunderstood and not very popular where we come from. For that reason, we are met with much skepticism from the community and our own families,” says Abulele. 

For Kulcha Wockeyz, dance is their only passion, and they do it full-time. However, as an emerging group, this often means that their operational costs are self-funded, which is not always possible. They use one of the members’ homes to rehearse and often rely on donations from family and friends for other costs like traveling to gigs and buying dance gear. However, access to the internet is no longer one of their worries since crossing paths with ikeja Wireless at the beginning of this year. 

“Because social media is a significant part of what we do, it’s extremely important for us to have a reliable and affordable internet connection. But with the continuously skyrocketing data prices, that part of our work became severely affected, which was very sad because it helped us in many ways.  So, we approached ikeja Wireless for help, and they agreed to sponsor us!” says Abulele. 

Before parting ways, I ask the crew what’s in store for the future. Although super ambitious and enormous, their plan is pretty straightforward: to travel the world showcasing their talent, earn decent money and come straight back home to pay it forward.