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Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Don’t miss this excellent dance work if it comes your way. (Review by Caroline Smart)

The KZN arts world rejoiced at the news that Durban’s highly respected dancer and choreographer, Musa Hlatshwayo, had been awarded the 2018 Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance.

This is a highly deserved acknowledgement for a creative spirit who I believe is going to continue to break boundaries with his dance works.

Udodana, his work for the festival, premiered in Rhodes Theatre and received much audience support.

The sound of tinkling bells indicates the opening of the work, as dancers move through the audience onto the stage. But they aren’t bells – they are coins in bottles which are being shaken.

Hlatshwayo designed the costumes in muted browns and oranges. An intriguing part of the costuming was a kind of “backpack” carrying two bottles and some fruit. He also designed the set which had a vast array of arum lilies in pots at the back and these were also placed on the side balconies. These lilies have a particular significance in the storyline which Hlatshwayo later relates with much poignancy.

Hlatshwayo explains the meaning of the backbacks:

Note that ‘isikhwama’ (a bag) can be a backpack or a bag in isiZulu. It basically represents the lot that an heir or a specifically chosen person has to inherit and safeguard for the values of the family, the beliefs, the lineage and the traditions not to be broken. Almost in a similar way as how a religious leader who succeeds the previous one is said to be taking ‘the bags’ from the previous one. The same term is used when discussing succeeding a traditional healer, a Nkosi or a leader of some sort.

This, however, is usually a poetic reference to the ‘the file’, ‘the system’, ‘the methodology’ and however else you can describe it. In some areas however you will see a tangible bag being handed down e.g. in churches. This would then contain the files, the keys, old records, some regalia (hats or crowns in traditional structures) etc etc. This bag is basically a big part of ‘the inheritance’ as it bestows the blessings of authority which also come with the burden of responsibility of carrying out rituals and practices that you were not involved in putting together, grew up not being allowed to challenge or question but you are now expected to carry them forth.”

Lighting designer Lerato Ledwaba created the perfect ambience for this production as did Simanga Zondo with photography and the video that played on the back screen.

The cast included Njabulo Zungu, S’celo Brilliant Mthethwa, Wandile Nodliwa, Tebogo Mncwabe, Sibusiso Ngcobo, Lucky ‘Dyroach’ Sicwa, Cebo Mthembu with Hlatshwayo appearing as the main character.

The production initially charts people at odds with each other, attacking and being belligerent. An extract from one of Julius Malema’s speeches on the land issue adds to the mood of frustration and anger. However, moving towards the end, there is more of a positive rapport and a calmer atmosphere.

There are some superb leaps and catches, often taken at great speed along with spectacular high kicks.

Mention must be made of the drummers who provided the continued vigorous pulsating backgrounds on a number of drums. Impressive energy here!

The programme notes state: “Udodana is a full length dance theatre work that seeks to explore the black male body, its associated and constructed identity; its placement in the society (particularly in traditional African communities, households and churches) against the many ongoing incidents that constantly draw attention to the silenced brokenness of the black male identity. Fusing both the abstract and the narrative approach, the work explores the continued brokenness of the black male body; its indoctrination and incubation into the systems whose role plays ignorant if not tyrant to the development of black power and unity.”

Hlatshwayo explains: “I am particularly interested in exploring and interrogating the placement of the younger black male generation in the evolution and the advancement of the patriarchal system (s); its institutionalisation within African tradition, religion and spirituality and more importantly its passing down from general to generation as demonstrated by culture, tradition and religion and how this all responds and participates the current ongoing brokenness of our society.”

Don’t miss this excellent dance work if it comes your way. – Caroline Smart