DANCING ACROSS AFRICAN BORDERS WITH JOMBA!’s “AFRICAN CROSSINGS” PLATFORM
By Dr Sarahleigh Castelyn (Guest Writer)
A bare-foot walks tentatively on the white line that divides many of the tarred roads we travel.
A pair of feet navigate steps that are littered with children’s toys.
Below the performer’s feet, which move slowly from side to side, is an arrangement of beaded objects.
A foot moves out from underneath an array of layers of white material.
IN-BOX!! choregraphed and performed by Bernardo “Pak Ndjamena” Guiamba with filmmaker Ivan Barros (both of Mozambique) maps Guiamba’s journey across Maputo in Mozambique starting from navigating the white lines of a tarred road, hitching a ride on the back of a motorbike, from a landscape of red sand that towers above him, to the heights of a disused high rise building in which the camera closes in, on the architecture of his surroundings and the architecture of his body, moving with agency against the stark lines of the structure. The crossings from dream state to reality, from childhood to death, and one colour on the spectrum to another, from confined space to the expanse of a rising and setting sun, are traversed in In my mind by Marcel Gbeffa from Benin. At times, his body melts into his surroundings, and at times, it is distinct, rendering that instant when crossovers occur. Malagasian Gaby Saranouffi’s dance film FACE(S) OF BASADIemerges from her collaboration with South African photographer Jodi Bieber on an installation that explored the rites of passage — the crossings — that many women of Africa pass through. Saranouffi moves between dancing underneath layers of white fabric, onto which photographs of young girls and women taking part in the Reed Dance — a rite of passage ceremony — are projected, to revealing herself dressed in beaded objects that are worn by young girls and women in the Reed Dance. In Alienation by Robert Ssempijja of Uganda, Ssempijja explores his relationship with Kamapala, a city that crosses its history of colonialism and its present. Ssempijja, dressed in a costume of layers of white material, decolonialises the city as his body spirals in the courtyard of an abandoned building, challenging the order as he runs and falls and gets up and runs, disrupting the red sand on which the building is located.
These commissioned screen dance works for JOMBA! capture the theme of African Crossings, from the micro level to the macro, from the close-up of performer’s feet crossing pathways from a tarred road to the gravel that runs alongside, to the rite of passage that many women of Africa pass through. The curation of these films explores both the shared experiences of people of Africa across the continent from its north to its south to its islands, and the specificities and distinctiveness that are unique to the performer’s time and place on our continent.