JOMBA!’s Dance in the Digital Age takes us to Nairobi, Kenya through the work of Ondiege Matthew (DANCE INTO SPACE). Performed by Matthew at the Kenya National Theatre during lockdown, Generations(May 2020) is a solo piece danced by Matthew and accompanied by spoken word performed by Teardrops. Tying this work neatly together is the aptly chaotic and haunting at times music by DJ Richie, Alacoque Ntome (flute) and Keni Gakuo (Drums). This work is brief yet impactful with Teardrops dropping gems about our generation and its future children’s internet addled-hungry for virtual ‘likes’ mind. Matthew matches these sentiments in movement as he dances under a spotlight, flailing his arms and legs, trying to fly while confined to a circle of light. “A generation who sleeps with their phones under their pillows,” Teardrops spits under his own ring of spotlight as Matthew embodies these words, his body stretching to the edges of the ring but never stepping out. His movements at times exaggerated yoga poses, dancing through the ‘cobra’ and ‘downward facing dog’. There is an eerie sense of doom and a struggle for hope that emerges from this piece as Teardrops words, “A generation who goes to the gym but their mind is still unfit” echoes a distinct sense of fear for the future.
Essential Services (July 2020) is choreographed by Matthew and performed by Kennedy Wafula, Lorriette Aluoch, Novaline Akoth, Kelvin Tesha, Rodgers Maithya. This work gives us a glimpse into the lives of Kenyans as they navigate life in the time of Covid-19. It is during this piece that I find myself wanting to look away, reminiscent of my constant reluctance to watch the news. Too much truth. The piece begins with a trio of male dancers who move in synchrony. Matthew has chosen to dramatise this performance, using dialogue to depict lockdown life in Kenya. The female dancers enter and chat about being asked to wash their hands but not having soap or running water amidst a flood. The irony of this little exchange is hard to swallow. This work unpacks the experience of Covid-19 through the injustices that become part of people’s daily lives. Through movement and dialogue, this work conveys a sense of normalcy around a corrupt government and surrendering to a bullying force at the hands of officials amidst a pandemic that mirrors the plight of South Africans. It shows us that we are closer than we think and without a doubt, are in ‘this’ together.
Generations and Essential Services will stream at 3pm on 30 August, with a webinar to accompany. There is no repeat screening. Access this platform through http://www.jomba.ukzn.ac.za