An amalgamation of dance, music and theatre, all of which holding the narrative of South Africa 20 years after apartheid. If that’s not mind blowing enough, Afrovibes Festival also featured pop up performances from local talent, post-show discussions and a taste of South African food. All could be found at the Township Café, a wonderful enhancement to the already wonderful festival! Now in efforts to expand my knowledge of South African culture and eat as much Bunny Chow as I could, I had planned to attend all the shows featured in the programme. However due to a severe case of the sniffles I only managed to view three; sad I know. Here are some reviews!
An intense and heart wrenching story of one man’s home and livelihood, stolen from his grasp by racism’s greedy finger tips. The weight of the heartache experienced from travelling was drilled into us from the moment protagonist Thomas (our main man Phillip M Dikotia) took off on his journey. Through repetition he drags us on his laborious journey to Skielik, his home. He returns, only to be flooded with painful memories of the wife and child lost in a violent mass shooting. Thomas explains how the loss of his loved ones was shrouded in bright lights and film crews, how the incident put Skierlik on the map as a place of poverty and the bodies of those mourned were over looked. Skierlik was heart breaking, powerful and unassumingly suspenseful to say the least.
We follow Lindiwe, a young black South African girl adopted by Ellen, her white middle class mother, affirming the belief that South Africa 20 years on from apartheid is a “Rainbow nation”. Unintentionally she is reintroduced to her blood cousin Sickello (I apologise if this has been misspelt). He enters baring the news that his mother is dying and Lindiwe is presented with her last request, to help Sickello in any way she can. Now stripped of her sheltered home, Lindiwe is forced to question her identity. An interesting piece of realism which delves into themes such as “the white saviour” in the form of Lindwe’s adopted mother. When relaying her views on her adoption in a heated conversation, Lindiwe refers to herself as her mother’s “pet, project and trophy”. This, alongside elements of internalised racism within Lindiwe, frequently delivered from Sickello in the term ‘coconut’, formed the thought provoking piece which is Rainbow Scars.
An alluring piece centred on the Reed Dance, a traditional dance which promotes chastity in young women, resurrected in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 80’s. Uncles and Angels explores the preciousness of virginity and chastity amongst young girls. Ironically, the Reed Dance is performed in traditional clothing which exposes most of the body and has been said to trigger the rape of these young girls. Featuring effective video projections, we were taken on a mind blowing visual exhibition involving multiplication of live images, repetition and manipulation of time; thus creating a mesmerising and somewhat trippy performance.
Dark Cell – Created and performed by Themba Mbuli
A potent piece of contemporary dance, layered in the shadowy themes of mental imprisonment. As an audience member, it’s safe to say we were all transfixed within the concept of Dark Cell, which happens to be based on the harsh surroundings of Robben Island Prison. Music was drawn from chains and buckets which held symbolism of the living conditions at the prison. The buckets were representative of the toilet system which is still held in some communities today. Themba Mbuli then began to strip and perform nude, reflective of the indecent treatment of the prisoners by the wardens. An extremely powerful piece I could watch again and again.