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Saturday, January 27, 2018


(Njabulo Zungu is in the forefront of the picture. Photo by Val Adamson)

It is a highly energetic and extremely moving piece using different spaces of the venue and a fascinating selection of props. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Durban was delighted when acclaimed and highly talented Musa Hlatshwayo was acknowledged by Standard Bank as this year’s Young Artist Award Winner for Dance. He has created a new full-length innovative site-specific dance theatre piece for his company Mhayise Productions’ first season for 2018.

Invited guests perform alongside the Mhayise cast and its Movement Laboratory trainees. The piece is titled EBuTHONGWENI and Hlatshwayo has chosen as the venue The Pump House on the Durban beachfront.

It is a highly energetic and extremely moving piece using different spaces of the venue and a fascinating selection of props. The audience follows the dancers in a seamless journey from outside to inside to the side deck and eventually down to the promenade as Hlatshwayo and his cast walk into the sea up to their knees.

Inside the Pump House, recycled bottles with extending white strips of plastic give the idea of fascinating underwater creatures. A carpet of crumpled pieces of paper covers the lower section creating an ethereal mood as the dancers in their white costumes roll and stretch or crawl like chameleons. Dancers leap against the walls in impressive feats of agility and also move around the rafters like graceful felines.

Hlatshwayo explains: “EBuTHONGWENI” can be loosely translated as ‘in sleep’. In the African context, however, many continue to discover more articulate meanings behind the state of ‘sleep’ where some have defined it as a state of ‘rest’ where the physical body slides into a biologically wired “coma” while the spirit recharges ...or continues experiencing life in the subconscious and spiritual sphere.

“EBuTHONGWENI” can also be defined as a subconscious transitioning of the soul into a hypnotic trance where the physical body surrenders to a spiritual maintenance; an experience of connections and disconnections guided by various factors, the source(s) and the agents of our mysterious living.”

There are numerous magical moments especially when the elegantly-dressed bridal figure approaches from out of the darkness under a brightly-lit umbrella with attendants carrying “bouquets” filled with lights. This is also the first time I have ever heard Musa Hlatshwayo sing and he has a very good voice!

EBuTHONGWENI incorporates guitar music by Thabani Mahlobo, pipe-and-shaker busker Unico Muzico and songstress Phumzile Zondo. It features an impressive group of hyper-fit dancers and Njabulo Zungu shines both with his movement and his narration.

The Pump House is a perfect venue for this production with its various performance areas and the fact that the audience can follow the cast right down to the water’s edge. The only problem is that space for seating and indoor standing room is limited. I hope that EBuTHONGWENI will be able to be restaged in similar venues in the future so that other audiences can experience its magic.

There is one more performance tomorrow (Sunday January 28) at 15h00 at The Pump House which is near California Dreaming on the Durban beachfront. Booking is essential through or 081 305 5212. Tickets R65 (R55 pensioners and students) purchased at the door. – Caroline Smart

The production was made possible through the support of the NAC, as well as EThekwini Municipality, EThekwini Living Arts Culture and Heritage, Standard Bank and the National Arts Festival.