national Arts Festival Banner

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


(Reviews from the artSMart team currently in Grahamstown at the 2016 National Arts Festival)

A deeply moving dance work than captures the imagination. (Review by Verne Rowin Munsamy)

The National Arts Festival in association with the Unmute Dance Company and the support of Artscape Theatre presents The Standard Bank Young Artist Themba Mbuli and his work Sold.

On a bitterly cold Grahamstown night, I made my way to the Alec Mullins venue to bask in the splendour that was Sold. The bodies of the dancers warm up the 300-seater venue as they reveal through dance the story of 20 human skulls, of colonial victims, returned to South Africa by Germany. The skulls were amongst hundreds who starved to death over a hundred years ago in a Namibian genocide.

The co-creators - Sonia Radebe, Teresa Mojela, Nadine Mckenzie and Koleka Putuma - are commendable in their physical interpretation of this brutally moving piece. The image of the dancers moving with the skulls, silhouetted and shadowed in warm light, is both haunting and astonishing. The contact sequences depict the flowing bodies like a river of blood, soiling the earth. The differently abled dancers remind us of African countries (Ethiopia, Ruwanda, Sudan and others who have lost, fought and, like eroded top soil (a prominent image in the dance), we are as human, eroded.

In addition, they speak the stories of four women (four of the 20 returned), through movement, sound and spoken text; exploring metaphors and meanings to re-claim and re-face some of the women who were defaced and buried namelessly in history. It is only through great trust, amongst the company, that such delicate stories can be told and appreciated.

“The blood says, we have lost enough ... the blood says, we have enough to live ... the blood says live!” We are reminded through these words and movement that we are haunted by the actions of our past and that the road to redemption is paved with the skulls of our ancestors. Sold is a deeply moving dance work than captures the imagination. - Verne Rowin Munsamy

(For more information on the National Arts Festival click on the banner advert at the top of this page)