Glenda Kemp loved music and dancing from a young age, but no parent would ever imagine that this passion would lead her to become an infamous and controversial stripper and snake dancer in South Africa during the 70s. In her autobiography ‘Glenda Kemp, Snake Dancer’, she retells in detail, her trials, experiences and then finally her reunion and commitment to Christ later in life.
A challenging start
Glenda’s upbringing was never without its challenges and her innocent life was turned up-side-down by a stepfather who sent her siblings to an orphanage.Glenda and her baby brother, Dale, were kept with their parents in a small flat in Johannesburg. It wasn’t long before Glenda possessed a horrible secret of sexual abuse from her stepfather and later, she too, was sent to an orphanage.
Finding a home
Rejected, abused and abandoned, Glenda detested orphanage life until she discovered Jesus at a Christian camp. There she met with ‘Tannie’ Baumbach who led her to salvation and developed a friendship with this young orphaned girl. Glenda was therefore ecstatic when ‘Tannie’ and ‘Oom’ Baumbach adopted her into their Christian home.
Discovering her dance moves
It was in 1969 that Glenda enrolled into Teachers’ College and found distraction from God’s Word. She entered the social world of parties and dancing, only to reveal a skill that would be appreciated, as well as detested by many in the years to come. From her first job as a go-go dancer,Glenda experienced an escape from her circumstances. “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.”
News-maker of the year
It was during the conservative 70s, that Glenda began stripping with ‘Oupa’, her pet python. Her scandalous actions and her provocative moves eventually causedauthorities, including the church, to do
their best to stop her, without success. The Rapport Newspaper tagged her ‘newsmaker of the year’ shortly before 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, Glenda 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
and, as it settled, another town was put on the map.”
Fleeing the criticism
Glenda was offered an opportunity to tell her story in a full-length movie, produced by Dirk DeVilliers. When the film was unsuccessfully received by the public, Glenda finally decided to leave her snake and her indecent stage performances behind and follow her teaching career. Despite her desire to move forward,
rejections at interviews lead her to pursue a dancing career overseas, away from South African criticism.
Changing for God’s glory
In the 80s Glenda officially put her dancing moves behind her, moved back to South Africa, started a family with her husband, and returned to her teaching career. From that day, God prompted Glenda with His love, renewing her for His glory. “The first side of the story is one of shame and doom, telling of the time in my life when I lived in apparent freedom from obedience to the law, with the truth whispering all the time in the background - ‘slave to sin’”
Creating a new life
Glenda eventually got back into teaching when her daughter started school but it wasn’t without its obstacles. Many Christians were still appalled when they met the infamous snake dancer that had covered every newspaper with her scandal, but Glenda built some good friendships and received love and acceptance from a few forgiving individuals.
Renewed by Christ
Now in her mid-sixties, Glenda lives a life in complete devotion to God, using every opportunity to evangelise and spread the love of the Lord. Looking back, Glenda shares, “My life has changed so drastically and God has taken my sinful past and turned it around. I was wrong in what I did, I am a new person, God has made me new.” ?
JOY! Magazine: Book Review by Jenna-lea Kelland
Follow Glenda: www.glendakempharper.blogspot.com