South African Stilt Walkers
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Stilt Walkers South Africa, information and definitions via
Nowadays stilts are most commonly
synonymous with festivals and clowns. In
some regions, this is only the most
recent evolution of stilt walkers. In
others, it has been used in this way as
far back as the histories allow. Stilts
are effectively poles that people walk
on, increasing their height.
The legends and stories of walking in
this way have come from all across the
world for a variety of reasons. In many
old tribal cultures, they were used in
rites of passage or in celebratory
dances. The most well-known histories,
though, come from China and France.
In certain areas, French men drove their
sheep while walking on sticks. They tied
these wooden sticks to their legs in
three different places. The sticks were
flat at the top, but broadened at the
bottom to make walking easier. These men
became accustomed to walking this way
because the lands they lived in were too
unruly to traverse normally. At certain
times of the year, the lands even
absorbed a great deal of moisture,
making travelling even harder. This form
of walking was therefore not unusual in
these areas. This was during the 1870s.
They had become so used to this way of
moving that their speed and dexterity
were remarkable. Interestingly, the
dangers of falling from those heights
were not a big problem for them, either.
This is because they had learned to walk
in this fashion since they were
children. Their agility was such that
they were able to perform acrobatic
feats, such as picking things up off the
Stilt races became commonplace after
that. The very use of stilts had become
natural in these areas. There is even a
remarkable story of a man who travelled
for nearly two months in stilts.
In China, this unusual form of moving
about has been a part of their history
for thousands of years. There is also an
area in China that required the use
higher stepping due to the surrounding
wetlands. However, they have always been
used for entertainment purposes as well.
In parades, those using them would be
dressed in colourful costumes or as
legendary characters. One famous
attraction in ancient times there,
though, was the dragon on wooden legs,
where several men would dance and move
about in unison under the costume.
Whether people have done so for
travelling, entertainment, or painting
high sections of walls, stilt walkers
are an already ancient part world
history. It carries on today for many of
the same reasons that it did before,
with only minor changes made to the
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