“Uhambo” is ‘UHAMBO’
Slindile Mchunu interviews Sabelo Cele
Sabelo Cele is a Black South African, born in Soweto and grew up in Ezakheni, Ladysmith. He is currently a Master’s Candidate in the Drama and Performance Studies Programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
A multifaceted talent who has performed at festivals including: National Arts Festival, Dance Umbrella and of course JOMBA!
After receiving recognition for his JOMBA! Fringe submission Realize Chains for the first Digital JOMBA! festival in 2020, he received the opportunity to work under the mentorship of veteran South African dance maker Gregory Maqoma, that culminated in his dance film called Isabelo as the partnership of JOMBA! 2020 and STAND. He returns, this year to JOMBA! as one of 6 local Durban dance-makers who received grants to present work on the “Durban Digital Edge” platform for the 2021 edition of the festival.
Slindile Mchunu: Can you offer a little insight into his process?
Sabelo Cele: The process of creating Uhambo was wonderful and extremely fun… Usually when I create work I just create new work based in a reflection of a particular experience I have had — so you can say there is a little bit of creative freedom: but this time around for the JOMBA! Digital Edge I was given a theme that I had to work around, so the theme served as a doorway for me to interrogate the ways I have ‘Crossed Borders’… Getting a theme ushered me into a new world of ideas that I had not really indulged in as a creative. So the aim was to have as much fun as possible. The team I work with was also excited to engage with the concept which meant I had to be open to different interpretations and experiences of ‘Border Crossing’.
Slindile Mchunu: How does the costume and location of the work speak to UHAMBO oluthathwayo (the journey being taken)?
Sabelo Cele: The locations I chose where in conversation with the concept of Uhambo or Crossing Borders. I chose a vast land that is also a wilderness to metaphorically communicate continuity and unending of experiences in a sense that Uhambo is an expansion of self and the continuing of self through wilderness. The bridge over water was also another take on the process of “Crossing”. The bridge is what connects point A to point B. The bridge is the actual place where the “Transitioning” is initiated.
The abandoned building was also a representation of our discarded self as with Uhambo and Crossing Borders There are parts and places of us that we leave behind. Also, when I was at home for holidays or school breaks. I would get home and not unpack my clothes from the bag because in my head I will be on the road back to university once again so I would live on the bag instead. And that ritual was a signifier of how I leave In anticipation of another migration.
Slindile Mchunu: Is there any form of hope within the piece for the Black African queer body?
Sabelo Cele: With my experience of being, especially being young, Black and queer. The Homophobia and hate speech I receive in a daily from alleged Heterosexuals communicates to me that Heterosexuals perceive being queer as a disadvantage or hindrance to existence: yet, for me being queer gives me an alternative understanding of what is being, sex and gender in general. Being Black and queer really for me has been the best approach to most of my experiences. I always seek to understand power relations and dynamics.
Slindile Mchunu: How does the piece Uhambo correlate with the theme “Border Crossings”?
Sabelo Cele: Uhambo is ‘uhambo’. The aim is to go into a journey of self without any preconceived destination nor specific path to follow. Hamba (go). The intersection of Uhambo and Border Crossings is the idea of being in a state of movement. Crossing Borders, changing environmental and Geographical locations just as much as Transitioning from a specific emotional trauma to finding closure. Crossing Borders won’t happen unless movement happens.
The JOMBA! Durban Digital Edge is available on our festival website and YouTube channer for the remainder of the festival, FREE of charge