29 August 2013

Unpacking the baggage of identity

By: Princess Biyela

“Our identity as African is not something to ignore” stated Lliane Loots in her opening speech at the opening  of the 15th annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, evoking the memory of our forgotten roots.  The evening’s powerful performances B.L.E.N.D. and The King in Exile both challenged stereotypes around identity.

The show kicked off with an exhilarating duet which questioned the identities and histories of these women artists. The work B.L.E.N.D. was choreographed and performed by Desire Davids and Helene Cathala , both of whom have a ballet background. It is a strange clash of racial identity, performed with a thrilling, awkward focus on racial segregation. The piece begins almost in darkness in a postmodern setting, fluorescent lamps hanging from above and some placed around the stage, a silver bowl, a white box, speakers and headphones. This piece heightens the postmodern aesthetics of their choreography, which seems precisely soft, their individual styles of moving influenced by their histories.

In silence, lights turn on; Cathala drags the speaker as if carrying around the burden of the unfinished business of her life. Davids and Cathala both carry the baggage of an identity crisis.  Images appear in multimedia and the audience is intrigued.  Davids moves slowly, like in a trance whilst trying to reconnect with her lost identity. Cathala stares at the audience fiercely and then suddenly smiles. A line separates them.  The use of `click’ sounds and an African drum beat draws us back to  Davids’s khoi-san roots. The personal evokes the political.

Francisco Camacho’s solo work The King in Exile  also speaks about identity that is deeply political. In an exploration of political power, this solo work reviews Camacho’s ongoing search for a body whose identity is caught within the deceptions of history and representation.  Like a robot he enters the stage wearing a fur coat, carrying a briefcase. Red soil trails from his briefcase as he dances.  His moves vigorously, revealing the image of a king in exile as he attempts to reconnect with his lost identity. As his fur coat drops to the floor, he struggles to reconcile with his own forgotten roots, constantly fighting with his briefcase which is handcuffed to his ankle. His gestures are solid and they linger in representation of being (king). Each movement is very personal; he has his own philosophy and aesthetics, his own discourse about identity and power. 

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Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience