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Thursday, September 2, 2021


(Right; Thami Majela’s “Neverland)

artSMart is supporting the JOMBA! Khuluma Writing Residency by carrying student writers’ preview pieces:

It was interesting to notice that both films made use of contrasting grey and green colours which are commonly affiliated with mental health awareness and the green symbolising nature conservation. (Review by Lebogang Tswelapele Chauke. Translated by Lisa Goldstone)

Issues surrounding mental illness are often turned into tools to ridicule individuals, while nature conservation lives only on peoples’ lips. I couldn’t sit still on my chair during the screening of the collaborative works on the “JOMBA! and Crossings” programme.

This programme featured Sylvester Thamsanqa Majela’s NEVERLAND which was inspired by J M Barrie’s Peter Pan and Michael Jackson’s Leaving Neverland, both investigating how imagination affects reality and how traumatic experiences are breeding grounds of permanent scars, while Sizakele Mdi’s Dust to Dust represents the relationship between man and the environment.

NEVERLAND is presented in grey and white, set in an abandoned and broken house. The performance begins with sounds of shattering glass, great editing skills that remoulds the shattered glass. A seemingly-preoccupied man tries to keep his balance by hitting parallel walls repeatedly, with the ground scattered with shattered slates and tiles. I was holding my breath that he didn’t fall and injure himself since the woman at the far end was unfazed by the man’s condition.

The raucous soundtrack evokes feelings of anxiety and loneliness as the camera angle directs us into the abandoned house; the rising tempo and shattering sounds create tension and paint a picture of the house being haunted and cold; the repeated voice-over narration in various languages: “there's a dark side of my brain… I don't go out of my way to hurt anyone… things tend to get blurred between my good nature..” suggests that this is a common problem in cross-cultural and societal domains that have been deemed normal. The voice-over plays while the performer, Pule Peter is at the corner of the house playing with his yoyo while soft piano music rapidly intensifies with blurred visions of him trapped in a hole; this could be a comment on how people with dissociative identity disorder tend to experience isolation and distorted visions of reality.

He later gathers bricks and builds a “house” and drives one as an airplane that’s flying freely across the earth but then it crashes onto his “house” and he becomes agitated; this outlines how he yearns for safety and security, while the themes of violence and neglect are prominent as he narrates how he was assaulted by a man and his mother cursed him instead of helping. This is followed by a series of repeated vigorous arm movements covering his face, ears, and eyes while rubbing his head and biting his fingernails through the screeching soundtrack. The performance was provocative as it reflected on how people with mental illnesses are turned into outcasts.

(Left: Sizakele Mdi’s “Dust to Dust”)

Sizakele Mdi’s Dust to Dust started off as rather creepy with a dusty and exaggerated grey hand slithering through the branch of a mango tree in a contrasting grey and green environment in awkward silence; this transformed with thrusting wild air and the hand being given the body of a man, who seems eager to escape from something but is bound by natural forces.

The film features repeated movements with the incorporation of Umxhentso, the Xhosa dance mixed with chants and edited illuminated visions that cause dizziness. The synchronic drumming begins while he climbs the tree and later draws imaginary water from the trunk which later weakens him and hits him down to be buried by the dust, pointing to the title of the work Dust to Dust. This depicts the power struggle between man and nature with nature being a greater force as it encompasses the power to swallow and spit the man out.

It was interesting to notice that both films made use of contrasting grey and green colours which are commonly affiliated with mental health awareness and the green symbolising nature conservation. The narration was effortlessly carried through the performers’ facial expressions, revealing immense fears brought on by their environment and the spiritual forces around them. Lebogang Tswelapele Chauke, translated by Lisa Goldstone

JOMBA! runs until September 5 and can be accessed FREE online at