The four piece work began outside with a piece entitled 19 Born 76 Rebels. Mamela Nyamza and Faniswa Yisa take the old and new South Africa stances respectively, the former in orange white and blue and the latter in the green, black, yellow and white of the ANC. They move through to the present with red berets as they totter about on coffee cans – “chased” by barking police dogs.
The next piece is Themba Mbuli’s Dark Cell where the story of political prisoners on Robben Island is interrogated. This is the first of three “naked” works, with the dancer showing only his naked back view as he dances with the image of naked prisoners also taken from behind. Relevant, but not daring, the use of nudity was neither here nor there in the total structure of the piece. Of course, there is nothing particularly new in this depiction of the life of political prisoners and I wasn’t really convinced that the piece itself was offering me anything important. I wondered if it might be more refreshing to a younger, less jaundiced audience or if they feel about this part of history the way I felt about “The Great Trek” by the end of my primary schooling.
The next piece, Doors of Gold, danced by Tebogo Munyai, was a look at the conditions of miners as a flashing headlight attached to his hips disguised his nakedness until it went out. I was not sure why the concept of nudity was introduced in this work. It seemed to add nothing and it was not relevant to the work. This was a pity because of the pieces this one struck me as being most exciting.
The final piece in this work, Inkukhu Ibeke Iqanda, by Chuma Sopotela, shows the naked female body. I was left flummoxed about the message which contained much genital washing in cold water? Feminine hygiene? Ok, I’m being a little silly, but the message is far from clear.
Nudity doesn’t offend me. It doesn’t titillate me. I grew up in a family where nudity was simply a state of undress. It had no hidden connotations and no sexual meaning of itself. Thus it is that when it is used as an artistic device I want it to have a meaning that is sufficiently clear for me to access and which stands as a reason to use it. Sometimes it is vital to the work. Here … it dominated and detracted. The fact that I am talking nudity not message means the message was lost in the nudity. How horrible!
This was one of the contemporary dance works at the National Arts Festival 2014.