Festival Photographer Val Adamson captures JOMBA! Legacy Artist for 2022, Vincent Mantsoe live in action in his work “SoliDaD” which he performed at the 2019 edition of JOMBA!

Together again, from far away

By Lauren Warnecke (Guest Writer)

It feels bittersweet to scroll through the brochure for the 2022 JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience, knowing that I will miss most of it.

From my desk on the other side of the world, my favourite dance event of the year will mostly go on without me — as it should. While the 9,000-mile journey was not possible this year, my absence is a good thing. It means live performance has returned after more than two years of dancing digitally.

There were highs and lows to our digitized world during the lockdowns. In some ways, virtual JOMBA! in 2020 and 2021 brought us closer together, making international collaboration more possible than usual.

Now, JOMBA! returns to its rightful home: in front of a live audience. And in what is perhaps a back-to-basics approach, JOMBA! 2022 will mostly feature artists from South Africa. Nelisiwe Xaba opens the two-week festival in a joint effort with Geneva-based choreographer Marie-Caroline Hominal. The two dancers met in London while studying at the Rambert School. The piece on view Tuesday and Wednesday (30 & 31 August), simply titled “Hominal/Xaba” pulls from the choreographers’ shared identities as women, while simultaneously exploring the cultural contrasts between their home countries.

That is, in essence, the thrust of this year’s festival. Umbrellaed under a collective theme of “The (Im)possibility of Home,” the artists in JOMBA! interrogate culture, identity and perceptions of place.

Few artists navigate this as well as Vincent Mantsoe, who is this year’s JOMBA! Legacy Artist. Originally from Soweto, Mantsoe’s work is deeply tied to his Sanogoma heritage. But he’s also spent decades living and working in France. Mantsoe’s collection of international influences deem the work unrecognizable by any strict definition of form. If genre matters, he has none. Or perhaps many. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Like many artists who hub their lives in multiple locations, Mantsoe is most at home in his body. That sounds arcane, but you can take it a few ways: Home is where he is (maybe), where the heart is (cliché), or on the stage (with us). On that last point, Mantsoe is a master solo artist: Culture, collective identity, heritage, nationality — these inform parts of us, but there’s only one you.

On 9 and 10 September, audiences will take in Mantsoe’s newest solo, titled “Koma,” and witness a live version of his lockdown dance film “Cut (part 1),” reimagined for seven Flatfoot Dance Company dancers in “Cut (part 2)”.

The festival also zooms in on Mozambique with works by Edna Jaime, Pak Ndjamena and Ivan Barros. The former shares an evening with South Africa’s inimitable Fana Tshabalala on 6 and 7 September. Ndjamena and Barros present a new dance film, included on one of three digital engagements streamed live on YouTube.

Thankfully, JOMBA!’s digital footprint is not gone, completely — so, I’ll see you online.

For the entire JOMBA! schedule, visit https://jomba.ukzn.ac.za. Be sure to keep up with the Khuluma blog for live reporting from the festival at http://jombafestival.medium.com.

Lauren Warnecke is an arts and culture writer based in Normal, IL, USA. Her writing regularly appears in the Chicago Tribune and on WGLT radio. Lauren attended JOMBA! as a writer-in-residence in 2018 and partnered with JOMBA! to co-facilitate a critical dance writing fellowship in 2020 and 2021.

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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)