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Monday, July 15, 2013


(Vusi Makhanya can be seen in the background, bottom left. Pic by Bazil Raubach)

The piece explodes with a passion and sincerity that is tangible. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Appearing in Grahamstown, at the 2013 festival, Biko’s Quest was presented by Jazzart Dance Theatre and the Steve Biko Foundation in association with the National Arts Festival.

The production was inspired by the Steve Biko Foundation’s photographic exhibition, The Quest for a True Humanity. The dance work gained inspiration from the exhibition’s portrayal of Biko’s life and death.

Directed by Mandla Mbothwe and choreographed by Jackie Manyaapelo, Ina Wichterich-Mogane and Mzo Gasa, Biko’s Quest also pays tribute to those who were held in detention without trial and died under the apartheid regime.

The programme notes promise to ”take the audience on a thought-provoking and emotional journey displayed through a combination of powerful dancing and moving storytelling”. Well, the company undoubtedly achieved this aim. The ensemble work is disciplined and interactive – good to see Durban dancer Vusi Makhanya in the cast – and the piece explodes with a passion and sincerity that is tangible. The dance styles go from gumboot to Sophiatown jazz.

I have never seen violence portrayed so effectively. This was a brilliant combination of performance and technology incorporating lighting, sound and special effects. As an audience member, I felt part of the chaos, the shooting, the smoke and the sounds of suffering as it built to a near-unbearable climax. In contrast, the scenes held in complete silence were just as powerful.

Particular mention must be made of Bamanye Yeko’s excellent lighting design, especially at the beginning which incorporates a number of tableaux while a young girl in a Sarafina-type school uniform is frantically typing away on an old typewriter at a school desk. The lighting is further accentuated as cast members use torches to spotlight individual performers.

Superbly presented, this is an extremely powerful work both in its own right and as a tribute to the late Steve Biko. – Caroline Smart