national Arts Festival Banner

Thursday, September 8, 2022


(Above: Fana Tshabalala. Photo by Val Adamson)

(Review by Phiwayinkosi (Kwanele) Nyembe (UKZN Student and JOMBA! Khuluma Dance Writing residency participant for 2022)

This review is part of the JOMBA! KHULUMA online writing residency where reviewers are selected for top quality reviews and artSMart carries the best for each production.

Tonight, the September 6, 2022, at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, promised to be a night of (dis)placement. Both artists on the evening’s JOMBA! programme exploring issues of insider/outsider identities and emotions.

The return of the 2019 JOMBA! Mellon Artist in Residence, Fana Tshabalala, and the premiere of his latest solo Zann, which serves as a continuation of the work he started in 2019. I saw his work in 2019, and immediately felt this. The minute I took my seat at the auditorium, and saw him on stage, I recalled the feeling I was left with after witnessing his work in 2019. This unending state of anticipation. Like you’re left standing at the edge of a cliff, hoping to jump any minute now, any minute now …

And then suddenly your whole world is the size of the stage. Your body is summoned to attention to notice the body placed there. His widely-stretched movements both rough and neat, slow and fast, opened and closed. He slices the air with extended arms, hands and fingertips. His powerful Afro-centric dance style evidenced in his groundedness — there is effort in his movement, the sweat beads dripping off his bald head evidence of this.

There is a mood of un-ease. His entire body vibrates vigorously while at the same time his hands move in isolation to the rest of his body in wave-like form. This exploration of various states of contrast between stress and relaxation informs a lot of Fana Tshabalala’s work.

The world shrinks to the size of the stage, the stage the size of his body. The stage is inside him. The burning question evident in the work… “Where to begin?”

(Edna Jaime. Photo by Val Adamson)

The necessity of a festival like JOMBA! Is seen in its ability to bring together artists from various walks of life to share the same stage. This helps us identify our differences and remind us of our similarities, and ultimately is testament to the power of dancing bodies to remind us of our human-ness. With a special focus on Mozambique to aid us into rethinking our ideas around home. Edna Jaime tells a traveller’s tale in her timeless dance piece, Um Segundo (One Second).

Edna Jaime takes centre stage and makes her body the centre of attention. A continuation of the performance we had seen earlier, in a more stripped-down version. With similar dance styles of locked movements, body isolation, interpretive motions and innovative gestures that equally served the dancers in the telling of their own individual stories. Stories that sit on the body, and reveal the battle within: the battle of finding yourself in a world that is constantly changing. A change that threatens your preconceived notions of self. That declares war on your identity.

Eyes remained fixed on rhythmic movement as Jaime blends afro-fusion and Tufo (a traditional dance style in Northern Mozambique) to bring forth a tradi-contemporary aesthetic to embody the theme of isolation that is in her work. A word that had been robbed of any other meaning in the wake of Covid-19. Jaime dances to the vocal of Singha, protesting against the wearing of a mask that hides her beauty and prevents her from embracing the world.

The dance bursts out as a feminist manifesto in open free-forming movements that reclaims her sensual character whilst proclaiming the boldness of her being.

JOMBA! runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until September 11, tonight’s performance is a one-time-only offering from Mamela Nyamza. The performance is at 19h00 and will be followed by a talk back with the choreographer and festival curatorial mentee, Thobile Maphanga.

The JOMBA! platform is available online, on the festival’s YouTube channel until September 11, 2022, be sure to catch it: - Phiwayinkosi (Kwanele) Nyembe


JOMBA! is one of the University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts annual festivals. For more information on the JOMBA programme and other festivals, click on the CCA logo to the right of this article.