Glenda Kemp

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Glenda Kemp (born 1949) is a South African stripper, activist, and teacher.

Early life[edit]

Glenda Kemp was born in the Cape Province on 13 May 1949. As a young girl she lived in the working class suburb of La Rochelle with her mother, stepfather and younger brother. Her two older siblings were in an orphanage in Potchefstroom; she was later to be sent to the orphanage too. Kemp was adopted by Tannie and Oom Baumbach into their Christian home in the small farming town of Swartruggens.

In 1969, she enrolled into the Teachers' Training College in Potchefstroom. It was here she discovered dancing and her skill that would be appreciated, as well as detested by many in the future.

Nothing else mattered when I was dancing. I lived for the music and the words and wanted to share this with whoever was looking at me...the main reason I took more dancing work was because of the satisfaction it was giving me in escaping my circumstances.

She later transferred to the Goudstad Teachers' Training College in Johannesburg to continue dancing in Go-go dancing clubs.


It was during the conservative 1970s, that Kemp began stripping with "Oupa", her pet python. Her scandalous actions and her provocative moves caused the Vice Squad to do their best to stop her, without success. The newspaper Rapport tagged her "Newsmaker of the Year". She was arrested on numerous occasions and charged with public indecency. Faced with barricades of Christian wives on one side and loyal fans and liberals on the other, she never gave up, but continued to provoke the attention of the public.

No one expected me to change my identity, and dance as a black woman on a white stage in the midst of apartheid laws. I was going around and kicking up dust

Dirk De Villiers made Snake Dancer, giving Kemp the opportunity to tell her story in a full-length movie. The film was not well received by the South African public. She planned to leave her snake and dancing behind and follow a teaching career. Her notoriety resulted in many rejections at interviews for teaching positions. She then travelled to London to continue her dancing career there. She worked for Paul Raymond (publisher) in the Raymond Revuebar[1] and at the Windmill Theatre.[2] She also became a relief house mother at Epworth Children's Home.

Later life[edit]

In the 1980s Glenda put her dancing career behind her, moved back to South Africa, started a family with her husband, and completed her teacher training and became a teacher. She returned to the Christian faith of her early teen years and began a lay ministry to children and to the vulnerable people of society including prostitutes and drug addicts. [3] She now lives in Durban in retirement.

Popular culture[edit]

  • Snake Dancer, a feature-length movie of her early life was made in 1976 by Dirk de Villiers [4]
  • Bladsy 3 (Page 3), a play in Afrikaans [5] had a run at the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees in January 2014
  • Dances with Snakes, a half-hour TV documentary of her life was made in 1996 and shown on the SABC 3 TV channel.[6]
  • Glenda Kemp, a single by af:Spoegwolf was released on 21 March 2014.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  • Beukes, Lauren (2004). "Snake Charmer". Maverick: Extraordinary Women from South Africa's Past. Oshun. ISBN 978-1-77007-050-9.
  • Dreyer, Nadine (2006). A Century of Sundays: 100 Years of Breaking News in the Sunday Times, 1906-2006. Zebra. ISBN 978-1-77007-106-3.
  • Kemp-Harper, Glenda (2012). Glenda Kemp: Snake Dancer. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 978-1-4812-4404-6.
  • Dumas, Marlene; Bedford, Emma (2007). Marlene Dumas: Intimate Relations. Jacana Media and Standard Bank Centre Art Gallery. ISBN 978-1-77009-381-2.
  • Barnard, Rita (2000). "The Smell of Apples, Moby-Dick, and Apartheid Ideology". MFS Modern Fiction Studies. 46 (1): 207–226. doi:10.1353/mfs.2000.0001. ISSN 1080-658X.
  • Bowman, Charmel (11 October 2009). "Serpently not! says ex-stripper". Independent. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  • Percy Mabandu (23 April 2014). "5 SA bad girls". City Press. Retrieved 2014-08-07. In the 1970s, at the height of apartheid’s Calvinist conservatism, Kemp took to the stage with a python named Oupa wrapped around her body. She became the era’s most famous stripper, memorialised in a 1976 film titled Snake Dancer. These days, she is a born-again Christian with a blog called Read and Pray. In her heyday, Kemp danced in hotels to invite-only audiences to trick the law, but was arrested frequently by police, who were often front-row fans at her shows.
  • "Daar's 'n slang in die gras!". Die Burger (in Afrikaans). 3 Oct 1996. Archived from the original on 1 Jan 2000. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  • "Bladsy Drie". Kalfiefees-Hermanus (in Afrikaans). Retrieved 2014-08-07. In dié stuk ondersoek Elma Postma en Armand Aucamp deur die oë van die media die impak van die ikoniese ontkleedanseres, Glenda Kemp, se lewe vanaf die 70’s tot die hede. Glenda het die destydse konserwatiewe regime uitgedaag in ‘n tyd toe geen vrou enigiets kon uitdaag nie, met haar wingerdlatlyfie, anderwêreldse danspassies en luislang-dansmaat, Oupa. Met gedramatiseerde beeldmateriaal en nuwe onderhoude, word Suid-Afrika opnuut ontbloot.
  • "Bladsy 3". ABSA KKNK. 22 Jan 2014. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  • Genevieve Louw (December 2008). "ArtHeat Project: Glenda Kemp". Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  • Jenna-lea Kelland. "Glenda Kemp". Beautiful Noise Ministries. Retrieved 2014-08-07.

External links[edit]