Richard Wicksteed

Making the documentary "SanDance!" in the context of San life in southern Africa today
Jan 24, 2023 at - | Penn Music Building - Lerner 101, 201 S. 34th Street Philadelphia, PA 19104

Richard Wicksteed

Making the documentary "SanDance!" in the context of San life in southern Africa today

January 24, 2023 (Tuesday) — 5:15 pm to 7:00 pm


SanDance celebrates the ancient dance and musical culture of San/Bushman peoples in southern Africa, focussing on the trance healing dance at the core of San cultural expression. Our award-winning film features San dance groups rehearsing in remote areas in the Kalahari in preparation for performance at the annual Kuru Dance Festival in Botswana, and follows them to performance at the festival.
I’ll discuss the making of the film itself, and San dance culture, in the context of the historical oppression and ongoing marginalization of San culture across southern Africa.



This event is free and open to the public. Although this colloquium will be via Zoom, please feel free to join us in the Lerner Center, room 101 beginning at 5:15PM to 7PM to watch all together. We will also have a small reception beginning at 4:30pm in the room 101 for those who are attending. Light refreshments will be served.


NOTE: After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.



This lecture is part of the 2022-23 Penn Music Colloquium Series. The Department of Music's main Colloquium Series showcases new research by leading scholars in music and sound studies and composers both in the United States and internationally.  All Music Colloquia will take place in Room 101 of the Lerner Center on Tuesdays at 5:15 PM.



Richard Wicksteed is an independent documentary filmmaker based in Cape Town. His media career began in the late 1970s as an anti-apartheid student journalist and SRC media officer at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

In the early 1980s Richard covered social and political stories for the Cape Times, Cape Town and for the Daily Dispatch Transkei Bureau, and sub-edited for the Eastern Province Herald in Port Elizabeth.

In 1981 he and Barry Streek co-authored Render Unto Kaiser – A Transkei Dossier (Ravan Press), exposing the master-plan for the Transkei Bantustan under apartheid.

In 1982 Richard was charged under South Africa’s Official Secrets Act over his investigative reporting on a secret government ‘total strategy’ to crush resistance to apartheid. The charges were dropped after a year.

In 1982 Richard completed a BA (Honours) degree in African Studies at UCT, and in mid-1983 he left South Africa for exile in Zimbabwe and the Frontline States.

In 1983–1984, Richard worked as a journalist and southern Africa co-ordinator for IPS Third World News agency from Zimbabwe.

After completing a video production course in London in 1985 Richard began covering news for international TV and making documentaries in southern Africa on liberation struggles, environment and development issues, and cultural heritage.

Richard covered the making of Sir Richard Attenborough’s Cry Freedom as co-producer of the documentary Biko: Breaking the Silence (1987), and directed a beautiful musical history of Zimbabwe, the documentary Rambisayi – Music of the Ancestors, (1988) featuring Zimbabwe’s Queen of Mbira Music, Stella Chiweshe.

On returning to South Africa in 1993, Richard covered South African current affairs for international TV and worked as a senior sub-editor for The Cape Times.

In 1995 he completed a film production course at the New York Film Academy and began focusing on the San/Bushman cultural heritage in southern Africa.

Richard’s San films include In God’s Places (1995) on the San cultural legacy in the southern Drakensberg’s Transkei, Lesotho and NE Cape; Death of A Bushman (2004) on the murder by police of Kalahari San tracker Optel Rooi; Bushman’s Secret (2006, with Rehad Desai) on San medicinal knowledge; My Land is My Dignity (2007) on San land struggles in Botswana; The Will To Survive (2008) on San life in southern Africa today;  In The Land of Ou Makai (2012-2017) on the life of South Africa’s San/Bushman traditional leader Dawid Kruiper; !Khwattu – San Spirit Shared (2019) on the work of the !Khwa ttu San cultural heritage centre, and the award-winning 2020 feature documentary, SanDance! which covers the music and dance culture of the Kalahari San peoples, via the annual Kuru Dance Festival in Botswana. His most recent San-related documentary, Dustlands, covers the impact of COVID19 lockdowns on South Africa’s Khomani San community.