Quotes and Bookings for Stilt Walkers in South Africa
Stilt Walkers, information and definitions via
Stilts are poles, posts or pillars used to allow a
person or structure to stand at a distance above the
ground. Walking stilts are poles equipped with steps
for the feet to stand on, or straps to attach them
to the legs, for the purpose of walking while
elevated above a normal height. In flood plains, and
on beaches or unstable ground, buildings are often
constructed on stilts to protect them from damage by
water, waves or shifting soil or sand. Stilts have
been used for many hundreds of years.
In the wastes of Gascony stilt walking was formerly
a means of locomotion adapted to the nature of the
country. The waste lands were then great level
plains covered with stunted bushes and dry heath.
Moreover, on account of the permeability of the
subsoil, all the declivities were transformed into
marshes after the slightest fall of rain.
There were no roads of any kind, and the population,
relying upon sheep raising for a living, was much
scattered. It was evidently in order to be able to
move around under these very peculiar conditions
that the shepherds devised and adopted stilts. The
stilts of Landes are called, in the language of the
country, tchangues, which signifies "big legs," and
those who use them are called tchanguès. The stilts
are pieces of wood about five feet in length,
provided with a shoulder and strap to support the
foot. The upper part of the wood is flattened and
rests against the leg, where it is held by a strong
strap. The lower part, that which rests upon the
earth, is enlarged and is sometimes strengthened
with a sheep's bone.
The Landese shepherd is provided with a staff which
he uses for numerous purposes, such as a point of
support for getting on to the stilts and as a crook
for directing his flocks. Again, being provided with
a board, the staff constitutes a comfortable seat
adapted to the height of the stilts. Resting in this
manner, the shepherd seems to be upon a gigantic
tripod. When he stops he knits or he spins with the
distaff thrust in his girdle. His usual costume
consists of a sort of jacket without sleeves, made
of sheep skin, of canvas gaiters, and of a drugget
cloak. His head gear consists of a beret or a large
hat. This accouterment was formerly completed by a
gun to defend the flock against wolves, and a stove
for preparing meals. Shepherds from the Landes
region of France, walking on stilts.
Mounted on their stilts, the shepherds of Landes
drove their flocks across the wastes, going through
bushes, brush and pools of water, and traversing
marshes with safety, without having to seek roads or
beaten footpaths. Moreover, this elevation permits
them to easily watch their sheep, which are often
scattered over a wide surface. In the morning the
shepherd, in order to get on his stilts, mounted by
a ladder or seated himself upon the sill of a
window, or else climbed upon the mantel of a large
chimney. Even in a flat country, being seated upon
the ground, and having fixed his stilts, he easily
rose with the aid of his staff.
One may judge by what results from the fall of a
pedestrian what danger may result from a fall from a
pair of stilts. But the shepherds of Landes,
accustomed from their childhood to this sort of
exercise, acquire an extraordinary freedom and skill
therein. The tchanguè knows very well how to
preserve his equilibrium; he walks with great
strides, stands upright, runs with agility, or
executes a few feats of true acrobatism, such as
picking up a pebble from the ground, plucking a
flower, simulating a fall and quickly rising,
running on one foot, etc.
The speed that the stilt walkers attained is easily
explained. Although the angle of the legs at every
step is less than that of ordinary walking with the
feet on the ground, the sides prolonged by the
stilts are five or six feet apart at the base. It
will be seen that with steps of such a length,
distances must be rapidly covered.
When, in 1808, the Empress Josephine went to Bayonne
to rejoin Napoleon I, who resided there by reason of
the affairs of Spain, the municipality sent an
escort of young Landese stilt walkers to meet her.
On the return, these followed the carriages with the
greatest facility, although the horses went at a
During the stay of the empress, the shepherds,
mounted upon their stilts, much amused the ladies of
the court, who took delight in making them race, or
in throwing money upon the ground and seeing several
of them go for it at once, the result being a
scramble and a skillful and cunning onset, often
accompanied by falls.
In the 19th century, few celebrations occurred in
the villages of Gascony that were not accompanied by
stilt races. The prizes usually consisted of a gun,
a sheep, a cock, etc. The young people vied with
each other in speed and agility, and plucky young
girls often took part in the contests.
Formerly, on the market days at Bayonne and
Bordeaux, long files of peasants were seen coming in
on stilts, and, although they were loaded with bags
and baskets, they came from the villages situated at
10, 15, or 20 leagues distance.
Today stilt walkers have become a part of the
traditional festivals in Belgium. Young people
display their strength, skill and agility through
the game. The stilt walkers from the ancient city of
Namur of Belgium has visited Canada, France,
Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, USA,
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