“A word after a word after a word is power.”
― Margaret Atwood
“A word after a word after a word is power.” ― Margaret Atwood
The reason I love performance art is because it is one of those art forms where the performer/artist has the opportunity to leave his passion, heart and/or soul on the stage. Performance art pieces are often centered on an action carried out or orchestrated by an artist, which is pressure in itself for the artist. At times the performer needs to dig deep within their soul in order to execute the performance in a way the director envisioned it to be. The performer paints the picture; he gives the audience a glimpse into his life, his mind, his heart and oftentimes into the scopes of his soul.
The thing about performance art is that it is not only about knowing the script off by heart and/or memorizing the choreography.I had a chance to have a quick chat with Sibongiseni Shezi, a 4th year dance student at UCT and one of the dancers in Pieces of my Life (a dance/performance piece a had a chance to go see a while back), and she explained to me how hard it was for her and the dancers to dig deep into themselves in order to deliver the piece the way they did. And how the director, Mhlanguli George, pushed & challenged them every time during the workshops and rehearsals, in order for the performance piece to come out the way he visualized it.
The brilliance of a performance piece lies in a performer’s ability to capture the audience attention and evoke an emotional response from the viewer. I think the theatre and performance art piece by the UCT School of Dance 4th Years and New-Born Theater Productions was successful in capturing just that.Pieces of my Life & “Kwa-Nongqongqo” is a dance and theatre performance of two art pieces made into one. Throughout the whole staging, the performers seemed like they were being haunted by the ghost of their past. “The work is inspired by incidences, history, questions, politics and spoken words” (Maxwell). It relates to how in current South Africa the young men of our society follow the footsteps of their fathers and live their youth their lives in jail and how the young women of this country suffer the consequences of one man’s actions and bear the scars of their sexual offenders.
The piece is performed in Xhosa and English which can be seen as both a shortcoming—since some people who do not understand the indigenous language will miss out on some of the humor—and a way forward in the arts, in the sense that we are exploring the use of the other national languages which makes us the rainbow nation that we are.
The second half of the performance speaks of a mother and 3 young women who are searching for a sense of belonging and who they are. The 3 girls seem like they are on a journey to find their inner self and where their place is in the world. And somewhere within that journey they find themselves in a relationship that goes array in a moment in time. I remember how I could picture the girls’ powerlessness, rage to the fact that they cannot do anything to stop ‘him’.The anonymity of the offender (the ‘him’) makes this anybody’s story. Rape became more than a word we seldom hear from time to time in that performance space; it became real. I felt like I was experiencing what the girls were experiencing.
It is so weird how family patterns go on for generations and how rape incidences go from one generation to another. There is a culture of silence in South Africa where families do not talk about issues (more so emotional issues) and things that bother them. We ought to break that silence. We need to speak out in our communities about issues such as rape and crime and how they affect our lives. We need to disclose these matters because keeping them a secret makes us stay in the space of a victim.
I have never felt so uncomfortable in an art space before. I wanted to run out but instead I chose to keep gulping down my glass of wine hoping it would make the odd rush of discomfort go away. That is the beauty about the theatre and art in general; you never know what you will get and how you will react to it. Bansky puts it this way, that “art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”.
George and Maxwell Rani (the choreographer) have such a passion for the arts and what inspired me about them is that they want to talk about things that affected them when they were growing up; things that affect their communities and the people they know and care about; incidences of rape, crime, and the emotional scars that families are left with. The thing that concerns me is that there are fewer and fewer theatre and performance art being made in South Africa which is a bit disheartening.
You can catch the performance at the Grahamstown art festival taking place from the 3rd July to 13th July 2014. It is worth taking the time out to go experience! Just make sure you take a box of Kleenex tissues (if you get emotional quickly) and a glass of the complimentary wine (if offered) before you go in.