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Attendees dance in the audience during the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 at FNB Stadium on December 2, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Barry Christianson for Global Citizen
Citizenship

As ‘Jerusalema’ Wins an MTV EMA, Discover South Africa’s 2020 Dance Challenge That United the World


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen countries around the world implement strict lockdown regulations in order to protect the public from the virus, but with knock-on effects for people’s mental health globally. The Jerusalema challenge is a reason to look for happiness in such unprecedented times and has helped people to endure lockdown measures. The UN’s Global Goal 3 calls for good health and well-being for all, and this requires attention to both physical and mental health. Join the movement and take action on this issue here

In a year that has been both challenging and depleting, South Africans have managed to come out dancing, and have inspired the rest of the world to join in. 

This is all thanks to music producer Master KG and his international hit, Jerusalema, which quickly became a lockdown anthem both for South Africans and people all around the world. 

The song that speaks about not being left behind without hope, and asks God to take the singer to Jerusalem, is sung proudly in Zulu to an uplifting beat that’s easy to move to. When the song was released earlier this year, although South African’s proudly promoted the beat, it was a group of friends in Angola who helped the tune go viral and kicked off the international dance challenge. 

“It is a dance that was done by people from Angola, then Portugal followed, and it just went viral from that point,” Master KG, whose real name is Kgaogelo Moagi, told Sowetan Live

The dance spread like wildfire around the globe, everyone from firemen in Romania to wildlife conservationists in Zimbabwe took part in the dance craze. 

South Africans certainly rose to the challenge and soon enough the entire country was dancing in unison, from the Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, and his department, to judges and lawyers in Cape Town’s high court, to frontline workers at South Africa’s hospitals and schools, and even factory workers and truck drivers. 

At the peak of the pandemic, Jerusalema managed to uplift people who were in lockdowns all around the world, and encouraged them to find a reason to celebrate life. 

This positive impact was important to help boost mental health during the lockdown. Recently Pharmaceutical company, Pharma Dynamics, interviewed South African adults about their health status during and after the lockdown. Their research revealed that 56% of adults are currently experiencing higher levels of emotional and psychological stress. 

The study concluded with a reminder to citizens to look after their well-being. The Jerusalema dance challenge has been welcomed as a source of brightness in a difficult time and has managed to lift moods in spite of pandemic-related emotional stress. 

Related Stories Oct. 14, 2020 COVID-19 Is Having a Serious Toll on South Africans’ Mental Health: Study

The challenge inspires togetherness even when the pandemic has called on us to isolate as much as possible, and it has brought joy to a year that has been defined by loss and hopelessness. 

The song has since become the most Shazamed song in the world, and has earned over 200 million views on YouTube — with Master KG  winning the MTV Europe Music Award for Best African Act on Nov. 8 for his efforts. 

“It means a lot to me. It validates the path I’m on,” Master KG told Sowetan Live after the song broke Shazam’s records. “It means the world is moving to Jerusalema and they want to know more about the song and the artists behind it.” 

When explaining why “Jerusalema” was a finalist for South Africa’s word of the year — a title ultimately won by “lockdown” — Ntombenhle Huluhulu from the Pan South African Language Board described how the dance challenge truly tells the story of South African people.

“This is just who we are, it is being South African. We always find joy in the toughest of times and it just speaks to the resilience of our spirit,” she said. 

Meanwhile, in September, President Cyril Ramaphosa even praised the song, and encouraged all citizens to take part in the dance challenge for Heritage Month, in the same speech that he announced the end of the national lockdown. 

He said at the time that taking part in the dance challenge was an opportunity to “reflect on the difficult journey we have all travelled, to remember those who have lost their lives, and to quietly rejoice in the remarkable and diverse heritage of our nation”. 

Here are a few of our favourite contributions to the international dance challenge. 

1. The Masaka Kids Africana in Uganda

2. Nuns and Priests in Italy

3. Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary in South Africa

4. Slingeland Hospital in the Netherlands

5. And finally, the original challengers in Angola

Related Stories Oct. 20, 2020 ‘Lockdown’ Is South Africa’s Word of the Year for 2020

Launched in April by seven global partners, the ACT-Accelerator is a unique coalition aimed at accelerating global efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic. Its members are working together to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines as quickly as possible, while also strengthening the world’s most fragile health systems. 

But the organization desperately needs financial support from governments around the world. You can join us in calling on world leaders to fund the ACT-Accelerator by taking action here.