The title of the work is a play on words by choreographer Mamela Nyamza as she wrestles with the whole meaning of culture in PHUMA-LANGA, a dance work produced this September for Heritage Month. “Phuma Langa” literally means “rise the sun”.
Mamela Nyamza a Cape Town based dancer/choreographer, has been the Standard Bank Artist of the Year for Dance in the past, and has a long list of awards and successful productions performed both at home in South Africa and abroad to her credit. She has now joined forces in a residency with The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC), based in the province of Mpumalanga, for this new thought-provoking production funded by the National Lotteries Commission.
I have a friend who speaks all eleven official languages of South Africa and several European ones as well. He gently chides white people for their “lazy white tongues” when we mangle names and phrases from the vernaculars around us. It is the mispronunciation of Mpumalanga (to “Maphumalanga”) that Nyamza homes in on as she explores the foreign-to-her Ndebele culture as a microcosm of what is happening all over South Africa – the disappearance and revival of language, art and culture – which she believes can go a long way to creating peace, harmony and stability in South Africa.
Thulani “Lathish” Mgidi, was one of the main sources of information about the Ndebele culture for Nyamza’s endless questions. He assisted her with the traditional choreographic language of Ndabele traditional dance, but each of the dancers in the work, Nicholas Aphane, Shawn Mothupi, Lorin Sookool, Thulani ‘Lathish’ Mgidi, Nomfundo Hlongwa and Francesca Matthys, contributed to its being. The costumes and design by Sasha Ehlers are singled out by Nyamza as being based on the Ndebele visual art made famous by Esther Mahlangu.
PHUMA-LANGA offers no solutions. It is simply a questioning of our current race relations, intolerance, moral fibre, political will and the rampant corruption we face. There is a serious need for renewed reconciliation and reconstruction of the country’s collective soul.
Nyamza intends that audiences take home with them thoughts of a country at war with its own cultures, traditions, languages and history as we explore for ourselves the divisions and reconciliations we face every day. We are asked to examine for ourselves if this truly is a sunrise or is it a sunset?
PHUMA-LANGA will be performed at the Drama for Life Emakaya Theatre above the Wits Art Museum on the 19th Floor, University Building, in Braamfontein on 14, 15 and 16 September 2017. Tickets are R60 at the door, but booking is advised. firstname.lastname@example.org.