By: Mfundiseni Ndwalane
As soon as we entered the theatre we saw the stage had been transformed. The set was minimal; white tape was used to create a box that was open on its side furthest downstage. Framing the space along the outskirts were six chairs: two evenly spaced on each of the three sides. Lying face down, were the outlines of five bodies. This idea of healing never detached from this journey that was about to commence.
Fana Tshabalala’s (the 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Dance) title of his latest creation, INDUMBA, makes reference to the huts that are used by izangoma (traditional diviners/healers) for a number of reasons, including (and more specifically in this case) the cleansing ceremonies. The result of this collaboration with his colleagues of The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative redefined this ritual as the performers used their own bodies as ‘Indumba’. Upon the witnessing of this the audience, too, become integrated into this process.
They crawled across the floor, battling to stand up. Rolling up the spine, slowly gathering their strength they looked towards the sky, as if deeply connecting to their ancestors. Nicholas Aphane’s chilling musical composition began with a deep, droning bass sound. This was accompanied by an image of a man kneeling on the ground, as if paying his respects and readying himself for what will unfold.
They moved all over the stage trying to be connected through their own bodies and the space. All is connected to earth as one soloist was repeating liquid movements, where he had placed his ears on the ground as if he was listening to the earth.
Only on the inside of the sacred and demarcated space was the idea of weight and gravity evoked by the vocabulary that Tshabalala had composed. With a thoroughly engaging performance these dancers opened up a dialogue between them and the space. Being quite rooted to the earth, their bodies weaved together many stories as they negotiated their search to find their inner voices. When not brutally battling through their demons and need to express or articulate this voice, the performers found graceful transitions to the outskirts of this space where they sat down, a little more healed than before. At certain points they fully embodied this voice, culminating in the words speaking through a reverberated spiritual voice: “Bona la, uyayibona lento?” (Look here, can you see this?) Feeding on the spiritual nature of this encounter with ancestors, themselves and each other, the healing was clearly evident.
This is affirmed with movements deeply inspired by the traditional dance forms such as Umgidi wezangoma (traditional diviner’s stamping dance) and Ukugwaba (a subtle movement done by a Zionist during their church service). The end of this piece left my body caught in confusion, amongst the standing ovation I asked myself whether one should applaud or not. What is certain though, is that this proved to be an emotionally draining, yet deeply cleansing experience.