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Tuesday, September 6, 2022


(Above: Yaseen Manuel and Philasande Majikela perform in “I Am”)

 Through our bodies we can transcend spoken and written text to tell different stories, JOMBA! Open Horizon is a platform that supports the possibilities of embodied storytelling. (Review by Mhlengi Ngcobo, (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.

Yes! It is the 24th anniversary for JOMBA! but 2022 marks their first hybrid festival where there are live and digital performances. The Open Horizons, part of the digital platform offerings showcases stellar dances from different dancers from South Africa and Kenya.

Durban’s Sibonelo Mchunu with his dance titled Ill State makes light and fast movements. The dance is set in a passage between two buildings. Its unrelenting soundtrack doesn’t allow escape. By his facial expression and the way in which he stares at one place, I see someone who suffers from some form of mental illness that he is trying to overcome.

Inside Out is the title for Diana Gaya’s (from Kenya) dance piece. This work was selected for the third place for the pick-of-the-platform awards. Set under a tree which has shed its leaves. Performed on and around a big black car tyre. She twists her body with heavy wringing movements. These are juxtaposed against light, direct martial arts-type movements. Towards the end of the dance, she climbs the tree. With her navy scarf, she considers hanging herself — but ultimately, she chooses life. The work is a reflection of inner conflict and turmoil caused by isolation.

Braid is another fantastic digital dance work choreographed by Cape Town’s Sasha Fourie. The dance is set on a beach and it is performed by two dancers Gita Galina and Taryn Katz who are dressed in caramel trousers matching the beach sand. The constant touching of their hair evokes a powerful message for women that they should embrace and love their hair.

Tshepo Molusi from Johannesburg offers his piece: The Convincer. The work scooped second place in the pick-of-the-platform awards. Molusi wears a yellow costume that is Japanese-styled. The dance is set in a room and on a theatre stage, the frames cut between the two. The room evokes a prison cell or an isolation room. He seems to be suffering from some kind of mental dis-ease and this is made apparent through sensitive editing and pointed use of gesture throughout the work.

PINA by Kwanele Finch Thusi shows the choreographer (Thusi) moving lightly with quick shifts in direction. “Pina” which is a Zulu word for spin is captured in the piece as Thusi spins his way through his site-specific setting. By listening to the lyrics of the music and looking at the poses and body shapes in the performance, I gather the work is an exploration of queerness. It provokes an unconventional matching of masculinity and frailty, challenging the expectations around masculinities and macho-ness. The work ultimately asks for humanity in how we perceive each other, providing lucid commentary on contemporary conventional masculinity in crisis.

Yaseen Manuel and Philasande Majikela from Cape Town, perform in the breathtaking I Am. The work is set on a beach, and takes as its theme a gentle exploration of identity. The dancers’ heads are wrapped with white scarves obscuring their facial features. They move with grace and precision, their hands filling the frame. At the end of the dance, the scarves are removed and the two dancers run towards the sunset, dropping the scarves at the shoreline, the waves wash them away. The work which was choreographed under the collective banner Experience took first place in the pick-of the platform selections.

Through our bodies we can transcend spoken and written text to tell different stories, JOMBA! Open Horizon is a platform that supports the possibilities of embodied storytelling. It offered us six performances: The Convincer and PINA both deal with masculinities and mental health; Braid and I Am are both set on Cape Town beaches taking on elements of identity as their thematic core while Ill State and Inside Out grapple with personal anxieties around isolation.

The JOMBA! Open Horizons platform is available online, on the festival’s YouTube channel until the September 11, 2022, be sure to catch it: - Mhlengi Ngcobo


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.