The community of Emakhazeni in Mpumalanga will be treated to free performances and workshops by Drama for Life and performances by leading South African artists such as Lulu Mlangeni, Lebo Mashile and Themba Mbuli, as well as Malagasy dancer-choreographer Gaby Saranouffi, during the fifth annual My Body My Space: Public Arts Festival from 23 to 28 April 2019.
This influential public arts festival, bringing the transformative power of the arts directly to rural communities in the Emakhazeni Local Municipality, returns for another event filled with cutting-edge dance, theatre, musical and spoken-word performances, workshops and installations.
Aimed at transforming public spaces into dynamic hubs where conversations are sparked and people are inspired through the visual and performing arts, it is presented by the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC) and the Ebhudlweni Arts Centre.
Funded by the National Arts Council, this year’s festival takes place over the Freedom Day weekend and interrogates “freedom” and what that concept really means, as the country celebrates 25 years of democracy.
This year, FATC director PJ Sabbagha has once again assembled an outstanding line-up to entertain, challenge and enlighten audiences, including children and the youth, using the arts to provoke discussions on some of the social issues they face. This includes dance and theatre companies such as FATC, Vuyani Dance Theatre, Moving into Dance, Unmute Dance Theatre and Drama for Life.
Celebrated dancer/choreographer Lulu Mlangeni can be seen at the opening of the festival on the evening of Friday 26 April, at the iconic Millys of Machado, with a work called The Encounter.
Another highlight during Programme 1 at Millys (as part of the Millys Autumn Festival) will be Mnquma, which explores cultural roots and identity, presented by seasoned choreographer and dance activist David April and Eastern Cape-born dancer and composer Xolisile Bongwana.
Choreographer Gaby Saranouffi’s work MOI (French for “me”) draws on Madagascar’s ancestral system to make a strong artistic statement about violence against women and children. The artistic director of the I’Trôtra International Contemporary Dance Festival and the Vahinala Dance Company lives and works in both South Africa and Madagascar.
The evergreen and ever-inspiring Lebo Mashile will deliver her trademark lyrical, gutsy and potent performance poetry during the festival opening, while acclaimed singer-songwriter Adelle Nqeto will also beguile the audience.
Familiar faces and dance companies
A number of FATC alumni will perform during the course of the festival, including Lorin Sookool, who is known for staging works in non-traditional performance spaces. She will probe the millennial’s mindset in It’s Like a Second Skin: A Millennial’s Contemplation – a performance installation that will take place at the Machadodorp/Emthonjeni rubbish dump on 28 April at 11am.
Fellow FATC alumnus Francesca Matthys, now part of Drama For Life Theatre, whose work is rooted in physical theatre and text, will present her new work Pastel Affair – an unusual exploration of what it means to experience love.
Besides Mlangeni, well-known contemporary dancer, choreographer and researcher Kwanele Finch Thusi is another returning performer, with his work Pina taking on the idea of black expressionism and the agency of the black body. Durban-based Lucia Walker, another MBMS festival regular, will be improvising moments of performance with FATC trainees around the festival theme of freedom during a journey through Emthonjeni in her work titled On the Way.
Champion ballroom and Latin American dancer Roseline Wilkens will also be applying her African contemporary dance experience to her choreography of a work titled Cry the Beloved Eldos for Vuyani Dance Theatre, exploring how the youth in coloured communities are shaped by service delivery protests and drug abuse.
Seasoned dancer Asanda Radu will be choreographing a short Afro-contemporary solo work titled Kemet (Dark Lands) for Moving into Dance Mophatong, probing the line between personal freedom and social freedom.
Themba Mbuli, the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist award recipient for dance, will be choreographing Trapped Man for Unmute Dance Theatre, inspired by the late Zama Sonjica’s solo, Trapped, about a man living with a disability in an unaccepting society. The work, performed by Andile Vellem and Lionel Ackerman, comprises a sound dialogue and dance in the form of two solos that become a duet, using the dancers’ abilities and disabilities as a catalyst to open a dialogue around questions of belonging.
The festival is made up of three programmes: The Arteries Programme (a fringe programme of community activations from 23 to 26 April 2019), the Central Nervous System Programme (commissioned performances in public spaces in and around Machadodorp between 26 and 28 April 2019), and a workshop and training programme (aimed primarily at the youth, women and people with disabilities).
The Arteries Programme features performances and workshops for children and young people with disabilities presented by Wits University’s Drama For Life, as well as collaborations between MBMS artists and local artists, in Machadodorp/Emthonjeni, Belfast/Siyathuthuka, Dullstroom/Sakhelwe and Waterval-Boven/Emgwenya.
Entrance to all performances, installations, activations, exhibitions and workshops is free. The full programme is available on Facebook at My Body My Space: Public Arts Festival (@MyBodyMySpace), or email email@example.com.
The MBMS 2019 Festival is grateful to the following funders, sponsors, partners and collaborators: The National Arts Council, Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative at the Ebhudlweni Arts Centre, Mpumalanga Department of Culture, Sports and Recreation, Emakhazeni Local Municipality, Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud, Business and Arts South Africa, University of Johannesburg Arts and Culture, Rand Merchant Bank, Wits University Drama for Life, Millys of Machado, Outreach Foundation/Bienvenu Shelter/The Market Laboratory/The Kwasha! Theatre Company/The Mothertongue Project, Vuyani Dance Theatre, Moving into Dance, Unmute Dance Theatre, I’Trôtra/Vahinala, JC Zondi/University of KwaZulu-Natal, Jerahuni Movement Factory, Converge +, Unknown Assets, Luthando Arts Academy, Nantea Dance Theatre, Patriots Dance Theatre, Perzani Dance Theatre, Video Art Gallery, Joint Minds, Rudi van der Merwe/Skree Wolf, Lorin Sookool/The Floating Outfit Project, Achievers Super Buddies, Ehlanzeni arts academy, Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Studies, Buz Publicity, 360 Zebra Online, Splitbeam, Absolute Leisure Cottages, The Old Mill, Greys inn, The Ar(t)chive, Chazon Tekna, Lebo Mashile, Tshego Khutsoane, Adelle Nqeto, Janete Mulapha, Lulu Mlangeni, David April/Xolisile Bongwana, Kwanele Finch Thusi, Songezo Mcilizeli, Nondumiso Lwazi Msimanga/NLM, Mpho Makua, Moeketsi Koena, Lucia Walker, Kathrin Sirthl, Christo Doherty.