Bernardo ‘Pak Ndjamena’ Guiamba’s “IN-BOX!!” offers African Storytelling on a digital platform

“IN-BOX!!” a border crossing collaboration rich in African textures

By Sibahle Khwela

The short film IN-BOX!!, choreographed and performed by the multi-faceted Mozambiquan national Bernardo ‘Pak Ndjamena’ Guiamba is nothing short of perfection. This collaborative masterpiece between dance-maker Guiamba and film-maker Ivan Barros is about human resilience in the context of daily border crossings, evoking a sense of the everyday.

The story and depth of this piece have strong resonance to our times, the poeticism of the piece a testimony to the human spirit. There hasn’t been a more fitting time for human resilience amid worldwide chaos — the effects of the Coronavirus on livelihoods and mental health resonate more than ever.

This work has diverse textures, tones, intensities and languages for every border crossed. Guiamba uses straight lines combined with rigid staccato movements against vast natural and urban backdrops that shift throughout the work as he crosses borders — literally and figuratively. Head combinations combined with a floating style add unique accents to his work, while situating it firmly within an aesthetic that is African Contemporary.

Film-maker Ivan Barros’ attention to detail, vivid use of colour and clean framing captivate. The landscapes shifting between remote areas and densely populated urban ones while following Guiamba on a journey to deliver a letter to a loved one, combines African Storytelling and film-making techniques masterfully. The bareness of the sound in this work has me intrigued, it is used economically — to amplify the act of border crossing throughout the work, activating my senses in an unexpected way.

A stand-out moment for me, is near the end of the film when Guiamba enters into a warehouse of sorts, an intense accapella solo is belted out as Guiamba responds almost embodying the sound with such commanding potency that it made me uncomfortable while I admired the artistry. The tension of this moment sits with me still.

Guiamba moves through his film, without restraint, intentionally, while really tapping into an African consciousness indicative of our present moment. The works’ richness is this depth, its specificity in narrative, its strength. What I am most struck by is the refusal throughout the short film to be restrained, whether by political impositions, physical restrictions or mental anxieties, all evident in this gem of a work. Guimba’s film fills me with hope, his poeticism a love song to the strength of art and artists on the continent who, despite circumstance continue to tell our stories and offer our perspectives.

IN-BOX!! Is a collaborative explosion, a feast for the senses and a warm hug for the soul. In a time where pandemic fatigue is rife, this work is a gentle reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the importance of human connection (even if in the context of social distancing).

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JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience

24th annual JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience 30 August – 11 September 2022 (hybrid festival)