UKZN’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre was packed to capacity for the opening night of the 19th JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience presented by the Centre for Creative Arts (CCA) within the College of Humanities.
JOMBA!, one of the few remaining contemporary dance festivals in South Africa, features performances over two weeks and also offers dancers, dance-makers and the interested public an opportunity to engage in workshops, discussions and master classes.
Artistic Director and Performing Arts Lecturer at the University, Ms Lliane Loots, delivered the keynote address that reflected on the inception and prolonged success of JOMBA! and the country’s politics of memory.
‘In our desire to correctly rewrite racist, colonial and exclusionary histories, the fervour to retell and rewrite our nation’s stories, has also had the synergistic effect of leading us to a place where history and memory are being vanquished,’ said Loots.
She lamented the lure of developmental progress, the commodification and corporatisation of artists and their art spaces, where layers of history and memory are eroded.
‘Instead we are told to “brand ourselves” and to imagine ourselves – as artists, academics, activists, workers – as inventing the new. We have entered a time in our own political landscape where things are falling apart not because of a struggle or a political imperative, but because of a dedicated (and often rewarded) loss of memory.
‘We are right in the middle of our own war in the struggle of memory against forgetting. I too am left wondering how to fight against institutional and artistic neglect that is the most dangerous by-product of this sanctioned “forgetting”,’ said Loots.
She argued the value of society’s artists, saying ‘They are that memory that can take hold of history, of sadness, of love and be the voices that are the struggle of memory against the neglect of forgetting.’
Loots described JOMBA! as a place of memory, seeing the Festival as the work of the contemporary dancer, the choreographer and the arts administrator that she feels makes space for this war against cellular forgetting.
According to Loots, JOMBA! makes a dedicated effort to invite and partner with organisations, artists and dance companies who are using the voice of their physical dance art, to break down stereotypes, to address embodied histories and memory, who physically deconstruct socially and culturally defined ways of being inside one’s skin.
‘There are no “clean slates” in contemporary dance, only the fascination of the historically layered stratification of body politics,’ she added.
JOMBA! opened with a historical collaboration between two continents and two choreographers; South Africa’s Gregory Maqoma and Germany’s Helge Letonja in a work that echoed Shakespeare’s “time is out of joint”.
Six dancers met in a furious game of difference where the dance is a Babylon of physical co-existence with dancers exploding into centrifugal power, paralysis, fear and the rebellion of both the individual and the social body.
JOMBA! runs until 3 September at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on the Howard College campus. Tickets are priced between R45 and R60 and are available at Computicket or at the venue an hour before the show. For more information and a full downloadable programme, visit www.cca.ukzn.ac.za
Words by: Melissa Mungroo