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Thursday, September 1, 2022


(Above: Nelisiwe Xaba & Marie-Caroline Hominal’s production “Hominal/Xaba”
. Photo Isabelle Meiser)

This dance piece encapsulated the theme of the festival through its ever-evident concept of reimaging the self during the loneliness of Covid. (Review by Verne Rowin Munsamy)

Rethinking of Home

Last night The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre was abuzz with Djembe drums, laughter and familiar faces both young and old. It was nostalgic as I walked through the doors and remembered going for my first Jomba! experience in 2000.

Jomba! 2022 opening last night marking a very special opening night for Contemporary Dance lovers and theatre goers as we celebrate 24 years of the festival and the reopening of one of Durban’s favourite theatre spots, The Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre.

After two years of resiliently surviving the Covid restrictions that greatly impacted theatres all around the country, The Sneddon Theatre reopened its doors promising the same quality of shows as pre-Covid days; the 24th anniversary of Jomba! is an apt experience to start keeping those promises.

As has become custom for us, my three best friends and theatre devotees made our way down the steep driveway to the theatre and as we took in the atmosphere inside the theatre, we reminisced on our own festival experiences and past shows. It had been so long since we were in the theatre that we had almost forgotten some of the joy had, technique displayed and captivating concepts that the festival offers.

Dr Ismail Mohamed, who runs the Centre for Creative Arts, opened the evening reminding us that we were present to celebrate the survival of artists through the dark times that were Covid 19, remember those that we lost and marvel at the return of the festival to the theatre after two years of charting and pioneering a new frontier for contemporary dance in an online space.

His speech was followed by Dr Lliane Loots, Festival Director. Each year, Dr Loots’ speech is my inspirational power boost for creativity that reminds me why I am a theatre maker myself, trying to envision, through our work, the kind of democracy that we want.

She profoundly reiterated that “Poetry and dance, like bread, is for everyone!” before highlighting the theme of this year’s festival which focuses on dance makers who interrogate a sense of self, place and home. As Dr Loots points out, Covid brought about, for many, a detachment from the world and isolation. Our ability to rationalise the world through our social interactions had been lost. The pieces this year will imagine a journey home to fight this eternal sense of loneliness. The opening performance captured the theme conceptually.

Hominal/Xaba choreographed by Neliswa Xaba (South Africa) and Marie-Caroline Hominal (Switzerland). This dance piece encapsulated the theme of the festival through its ever-evident concept of reimaging the self during the loneliness of Covid. The floor has a web woven above it and there are hanging pieces of fabric hanging on crosses suspended from the flybars.

The colourful wool web is then used first as a trap that holds down the dancers but then becomes draped clothing for the dancers. The metaphor seeks to show the dancers trapped in isolation, trying to bring as much colour into the home space as possible. The dancers explore trends from social media in an attempt to remain connected to the outside world. The quirky yet animated dance sufficiently portrays the theme of discovering the self in a new home, one that is void of social contact. I enjoyed the concept of being held down in life by our own webs that we weave as well as the webs that society constructs to trap us. While the piece lacks the obvious flashy choreography that one is accustomed to at opening night, it still remains thought provoking and creatively unique.

Do catch one of the next 13 days of Contemporary Dance at this year’s festival which hosts Colloquims, Screen Dance, Jomba Edge, Youth Dance Festival programmes and local and international artists in various venues and around Durban. - Verne Rowin Munsamy

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