South Africa’s renowned dance festival, the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, celebrated its 23rd consecutive year with online performances on opening night. The festival is hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities.

Delivering the welcome address, CCA Director Dr Ismail Mahomed said: ‘The festival continues to give artists a platform to exercise their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and freedom of creativity through a digital and online platform, and at the same time, it allows our artists, through their participation in the festival, to earn some income.’

Festival Director and Performance Studies lecturer Dr Lliane Loots said: ‘For this edition of JOMBA, we took as a curatorial provocation, this idea of Border Crossings to navigate an opening zeitgeist for our current times. Given the global, African and South African current and ongoing civil, health and cultural crisis of ill-fated borders erected, broken down, reconstituted – sometimes very violently – and rebuilt anew, we at the Centre for Creative Arts and JOMBA! continue to use this dance festival space to fight to honour the cultural workers of South Africa, Africa and our global partners who all – in their own divergent ways – continue to forge pathways that cross and intersect problematic geographic, gendered, health and artistic borders.’

Opening night featured the premiere of JOMBA! Legacy artist Professor Jay Pather’s Undertow that included excerpts of selected works created with his Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre between 1998 and 2018. It is a composite film comprising skilfully curated excerpts from – among other works by Pather – Qaphela CaesarriteBody of Evidence and Hotel featuring the Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre. 

The selected works, all originally performed live, are woven together in a composite narrative that reflects, as Pather says, ‘the festering of the [South African] state as it is connected to an unforgiving patriarchy’. Pather and his Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre speak truth to power through embodied protest. His intention is to ‘move through this trajectory of trying to shift borders, against the backdrop of a failed state, where this history and present reflects a body that is sore’.

JOMBA! 2021 runs until Sunday (5 September) and can be viewed free of charge on the website, www.jomba.ukzn.ac.za or by subscribing to the JOMBA YouTube channel here.

All platforms for 2021 are free of charge and a full programme is available on the website.

Click here for isiZulu version

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photographs: Supplied