05 September 2011

Our Art is NOT a Crime!

Vedarsha Singh
Candy sticks, boerewors, steel drums and b-boys …
Live “legal” graffiti, marimbas, Castle Lager and projection are a few of the elements which amalgamated into one artistic voice that screamed “Halala eThekwini!” at this year’s Jomba! City Street Party, curated by David Gouldie.
With a programme in hand, you were armed and ready to witness how both the artists and the community would perform in this artistic cocoon.
The public space outside of our City Hall played host to a number of installations, performance, visual and graffiti artists as well as a number of dancers, Djs and MCs who performed around the statuary as well on the ‘main stage’.
“Durban we were born to get busy!” boomed Ewok, a well known Durban MC, hip-hop and spoken-word artist. With a microphone or loud hailer, he used the platform as an artistic activist, who had the courage to speak his mind. Bravo Sir, or rather, ‘big ups’!
Cleansing our psyches of our colonialist past was a prominent feature amongst many of the installation works, and this focus was stronger than the actual theme ‘My Body for the Earth’. The other stressed aspect was the fact that no laws were being broken. It was all legal.
Graffiti artists ‘Snatch and ‘Stop/Dain’ as they like to be called explained in more detail the misunderstanding and stigmatism the authorities seem to attach to the art form. They believe it’s now safer to do it legally. We seem to have forgotten the power of tag graffiti, and the many ways it can speak resistance.
Another beautiful touch was children and adults alike expressing themselves on canvases placed on the floor. Pastels, pens, pencils; it really didn’t matter. The artistic unity did.
The B-Boys were situated on a patch of grass covered by what resembled a chess board. Genius, as the art of B-Boy’ing is indeed a tactful battle. Windmills, airflares, flares, floats, turtles and handglides - all performed on an uneven surface? These guys were just showing off, and why not. They seemed to embody everything the evening stood for; the claiming back of a public space, in the name of Art.
Preston Kayzo Kid said “We’re going to tear it up!” They did just that, as they moved towards the Main Stage and blew crowds away with their athletic performance and battles including Jomba! guest artists Stylistik and B-Boy Junior.
The general consensus was that the Main Stage detracted from the ‘Street Party’ aspect of Jomba! City. The theatrical works from Break-Thru Dance Company and Tshwane Dance Theatre seemed out of context and didn’t challenge audiences at all.
Jomba! City’s The Street Party (with the catch line of “our Art is not a crime)” was wrapped up by Crazy White Boy (a Cape Town DJ). It has to be said that artistically, compared to last year, this event was a little too safe. But nevertheless an eventful evening in fun-sun-zi!

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Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience