Hominal/Xaba surfing and reflecting beyond borders
by Marcia Mzindle (Guest Writer)
After two and half years of empty theatre seats and no contact due to covid-19 protocols. On the 30th of August 2022, we gathered at the Sneddon Theatre in Durban to commemorate 24 years of the JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, community and a place of embodiment. The atmosphere is jubilant and vibrant as we await our opening night performance, choreographed and performed by Marie-Caroline Hominal (Switzwerland) and Nelisiwe Xaba (South Africa) and titled Hominal/Xaba.
The stage floor is adorned with colourful yarn in abstract web lines running across the floor like a giant web. Overhead hang neatly folded multi-coloured kanga fabrics. Homanal and Xaba walk on the stage dressed in fishnet stockings, bright underwear DIY pantihose-tops, sneakers and colourful yarn in hand. They walk across the stage zig-zagging, no one speaks. Carefully expanding the web made of yarn. For what seems like the first two minutes of the performance we as the audience are part of it…I say this loosely as the house lights are left on intentionally. A repetitive machine-sound plays in the background. The sound is “active” almost like a photocopying/printing machine sound. We are inside the machine creating webs, moving through space while watching.
I am reminded of a time during heavy lockdown being stuck at home under colourful social media threads and deeply covered in the web. Encountering threads to make bread and buns, threads on how to make amagwinya (isiXhosa for “fried dough”) or make your own alcohol at home…threads that made us feelconnected. Some made us laugh, some frustrated us and others still, made us furious. There was nothing to do, and everything was online. We moved from zoom meetings, to face time, video calls and voice notes — all manner of disembodied communication… the soundtrack in the background stops. It’s as if the machine has run out of paper… the fatigue! The fatigue of being stuck indoors with very limited contact. A few seconds and its back on again.
The performers stop zig-zagging and now immerse themselves in the web, moving under the web that they have created almost like surfing the net. This shifts to cutting the yarn and dressing themselves with it.
The fabric that has been neatly folded is opened and raised. It hangs towering, like barriers, my mind cannot help but think of the material (face masks) that stood as a form of shield and barrier between us for two and half years. Moving between locations, trying maintain a safe distance masked, and denied entry if not.
Hominal, brings a laptop from the left wing of the stage and Xaba a Bluetooth speaker from the right. They both meet downstage centre. Things take a turn into spontaneous and uplifting dance and mimicking TikTok dance challenges that had the world at a craze. How could we forget the innovating, spark of creativity that kept us greatly entertained in our confined spaces… the songs and dance performed ranges from Hip hop to Gqom music. There’s a WiFi disruption and a notice is heard but connection is quickly restored, and the music is in full swing again. Now moving to K-pop, the photocopying/printing machine still faint but audible whenever the song ends. This is followed by a section where the women embrace voguing and Ballroom Culture which celebrates community empowerment.
This performance is nostalgic and deeply personal, a remembering and celebration of triumph. The triumph of staying human, being in community, being present for strangers regardless of time zones, borders, language barriers and ethnicities. We carried each other, we felt the loss, felt time slow down and at times felt unable to breathe. Yet we are forever connecting beyond the walls and borders, beyond the masks and distance. We are able to embrace and move with love within our communities.
Hominal/Xaba has one more performance at JOMBA!, at 7pm on 31 August 2022, and this is followed by a “talk-back” with the performers/choreographers. Tickets can be purchased via Computicket or at the box office from 6pm. See the JOMBA! website for the full festival programme of events: https://jomba.ukzn.ac.za.