UPennInGrahamstown 2012
"Afternoon of a Foehn Performance"

A foehn is a wind, particularly of the mountains.  Here, a foehn was definitely used to demonstrate beauty and elegance. “Afternoon of a Foehn Performance" was an amazing artistic display where a young lady, adorned in a black robe, started out cutting up a plastic bag and taping certain pieces of it together. At first I thought she was still making the set.  She then started playing around with the plastic bag, which was shaped almost like a human body at this point.  As the performance progressed, more and more bags were thrown onto the stage, and the works of fans lined across the stage helped to freely push them into movement.  There were different sized bags, different colors, certain props, and certain movements.  

I almost felt that the young lady was crossing the line between God and Satan- at times she was the creator, the protector, the leader, and at other times she seemed deceptive and ominous.  There was even one time when she came out with a head full of white bags as her hair and started pulling them off and it created a beautiful array of white dancing people bags that circled the stage.  There was also a time when a bunch of black bags were emptied out onto the stage, while the woman had a small pink bag on her shoulder.  She started trying to fight off the black bags and protect the pink bag, but eventually she was buried underneath them, which led to her demise. This could be interpreted in a purity manner, as the white bags represented purity and the black ones represented corruption.  It could also be an example of a racial construction, since she was white, the “nice” bags were white, and the dangerous corrupt ones were black.    

Overall, the performance was about creativity, freedom, creation, protection, and destruction.  These freely moving plastic bag, along with the use of classical music, helped to add an element of elegance and liberty to the performance. 

I absolutely LOVED Manolibera and thought it was the most creative performance yet! It was entertaining, it was innovative, it was funny, and it was a brilliant work of art.  

The company fused acting and drawing, imagery and reality and pleasure and pain for this theatre piece. There was an artist, and two characters who used comedy and realism to construct a cartoon world in which they lived.  There were themes of heterosexual relationship examples between Hercules and his lady, and the overconsumption of material goods. 

It was an amazing lively performance and the artist was very talented in his artistry. It kept everyone glued to the stage and I love how it evolved, from the beginning stages of “turn these sheets on the projector” to all the artwork he did, simply from turning sheets on a projector. I also give props to the actors for their work to collaborate with the art that was behind them. That was very creative and innovative.

*this is NOT my recording of this show, I do not own properties*

Day 7- July 4

Independence Day! 

My Freedom, My Expression was the first event of the day.  It was an art display at a museum. The guide informed us that the art had been done by youth that were mentored to do art in a program. Most of the artists did not go to school for their art—they had no formal training. There was some high quality art, and it was meant to represent the freedom of creativity that can be given to those in subjugated populations, such as Blacks, women, lower socio-economic status individuals, and those that are not heterosexual. This was about finding beauty, creativity, and emotion in nature. 

We then went to a play entitled “Race”, which was one of my favorite theatre pieces. It was very Americanized, because it was done on Broadway, which probably explains why it was so easy for me to be entertained by it. It was interesting to see the affirmative action struggles presented for display and how they can play out for our bad. The fact that the most marginalized, the Black woman was the antagonist, created an unexpected turn in the plot. 

Of course, there were elements of race, gender, inequality, and law that were seen in this piece. Trying to legally navigate these areas of subjugation has always been a complicated task, so it was amazing to see how the white lawyer in the firm tried to use race as a jumping point to help those that had been previously marginalized, and how one that had been historically marginalized used the power she now had to tear down those that previously marginalized her.

I also can appreciate how they left some things to the imagination, such as what the young woman had been doing overseas, and also whether or not the man was innocent. One thing that frustrated me though, was the fact that it was supposed to be an American play, and the Black man was supposed to be American, but he had such a heavy accent it was not only hard to believe it, but hard to understand him.

We then went to see Reclaiming Body, Reclaiming Self, which was a physical theatre piece on being a woman and reclaiming the inner power every woman has over her body. So many times as woman we have others try to control our bodies, and they were speaking up and saying it is time to have personal control over body and regain the confidence from it. You had an all Black young lady cast, who later told me they were all students at a high school in Cape Town, who fused singing, and physical theatre to produce a piece that spoke on the personal struggles each young lady may face, from abortion choice, to sexuality, to femininity, to relationships with men, to shaving. 

A handful of us then stayed at the Monument after the show because they was a free show going on in the common area. It was a performance sampling display, and there were plenty of different acts that came on and did 6 minute pieces. Even though this was not on our schedule, I enjoyed it a lot because it gave us a chance to witness a broad array of the different talent that had come for the festival. It was hosted by a local radio station, with two vibrant personalities that made the display even more interesting. 

There were dance troupes, indigenous dancers, comedians, musicians, and free giveaways. It was a family friendly event (except for one of the hosts and his inappropriateness) and it was very fun to participate in. 

Cradle of Humankind was the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen. It was a very crude and abstract was of describing creation and I struggle with even calling it art. It was very frustrating personally, and initially testing my lack of patience as the characters aimlessly wondered around the stage for the first ten minutes with no seemingly obvious point in mind.

I try to stay very open-minded, but it was really hard for me to even follow, and my patience wore thin. It was supposed to be a tale of creation, seeing as how humankind began in Africa. But there was simply aimlessly walking around stage by naked people. I don’t understand why the man was having sex with a monkey. I don’t understand why he came out in heels. I don’t understand why he had his 90-year old something nanny come out on stage naked. It was a very abstract show and it left me frustrated and annoyed.

Afterwards we saw Ster City, which was an extremely creative and entertaining physical theatre piece. It was done by a young Black female and a young white male and it was a innovative way to show the history of South Africa. They used many props and avenues to educate us and entertain us. I think that worked very well with each other and complimented each other with their personality and their style of performing. 

We then saw Re-Fresh, which was a 5-piece dance performance, each one being about 7 minutes. I especially enjoyed the last 2 pieces. The first piece used a blank screen and there were 2 dancers on either side. It was very abstract but I sort of interpreted it to be about evolving into the person you want to be, whether or not people can see you to confirm or validate your work. The 2 people on either side were doing completely different things. 

The next piece was 2 people, and I’m pretty sure it was about growing and evolving as well, but it was a nice contrast to the first one because one person had another to follow after to learn how he should “grow” and “be.” 

I do not know what the next piece was about. I’m not even sure if it was dancing. It was a really abstract performance of a man who was completely naked, except a covering on his penis, and his back was facing us with a blanket covering him. The blanket slowly rose up until he took it off. Then he rolled around for a while covered in dirt. I’m not sure what to make of this piece.

The next piece was a beautiful performance by 2 people. There was a prop of a wooden box representing a house, and the house had holes all in it, where audience members were able to peak through and see a man laying on the ground in a black coat. Outside of the house was a young lady, who represented the man’s wife. She was singing moaning sounds and washing some clothes. She had a beautiful strong voice. She eventually came inside the house after being called, and after a while of demonstrating love to her, he proceeded to beat her and throw her around. It was about domestic violence, and how those families that can seem so perfect from the outside, can be some of the worst when you look inside on their private life.

The last piece was a creative performance outside. The program said it was inspired by a traffic jam, and you were supposed to imagine a weird type of happenstance when a traffic jam turns into art. We went to the parking lot, and all surrounded a car. There was an older lady in the car applying make-up and singing along to a song playing on the radio. She then drove away and another car drove up. The person started out regularly sitting there, and then started dancing and contorting her body in a unique way to the music she was playing. After a while, she drove off and a man drove up and started out sitting there patiently, and then commenced dancing as well. They repeated this, and then drove away. I enjoyed that most for the creativity, and for showing all of the different possibilities of movement in a car. 

Think!Fest talk on Education


June 29, 2012

The first thing we went to today was the Grahamstown Voices Think!Fest talk on education. The specific Grahamstown Voices talk that we went to was a highlight, and happened to be my favorite Think!Fest talk, looking in hindsight. As the first Think!Fest for the festival, it set up great expectations for engaging conversation. Grahamstown Voices is a session of stories featuring “storytellers, poets, musicians, academics, artists, and politicians” speaking on Grahamstown’s current status in certain arenas, looking at the past and hoping towards the future. This conversation happened to be on the educational system.

She started off speaking about Beagel’s death and the memory of Beagel, and how this memory lingers in Grahamstown, through his ideas and innovations. She gave us an overview of some of the issues in the educational system, such as the reduction for education for basic socioeconomic rights, the elites buying out the educational system, and the decline in the status of teaching (previously the elite jobs were nursing and teaching).

She talked about Model-C schools, which were formally white schools that Blacks were not allowed to attend. She also talked about political influences, and how more people are moving from education to government positions, and an individual could go from a R97,000-R400,000 when they changed their occupations as such. I found so much of what she was saying to be true for the United States though. A lot of the struggles that I’ve seen in the American educational system are similar to the struggles I’ve seen and experienced here, especially for minorities or those of low socioeconomic status. I spoke with her briefly after her talk and she mentioned the only difference being that here Blacks are the minority, and that is not the case there.

Aia! was an ingenious crossover performance that linked elements of art, culture, and science. Using dance to create a bridge between human beings and nature, this piece was the sheer example of South African pride. The performance brought to light the San culture, the most ancient culture in the world. The San are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa, living for at least 20,000 years. This dance performance explored the San’s experience and expression of origin, link to Mother Earth, and everlasting love for nature. Despite the excruciating discrimination this group underwent, this performance was not a display of the anguish and resentment the San people might still harbor. On the contrary, Aia! was a celebration of the origins that still live within all humans and that need to be awaken.
The dance began with the coming forth of a seemingly “ordinary” member of the audience. Approaching the stage with precaution and with the comfort of his cellphone, the dancer immediately shifted gears and engaged in a serious of peculiar yet enticing set of dances. Abandoning all mundane articles, the dancer was a vessel for the complete transformation of body and soul. Set in a crisp white venue or “a laboratory of evolution,” all three dancers evolved between dream and reality. The boundary between reality and fantasy was blurred, as dancers transported into and away from it without bounds. Through this exploratory journey, the dancers incorporated San elements of rock painting and trance dancing into their performance. 
San rock painting and engravings were greatly tied in with the culture’s deeper religious and spiritual entities. When a shaman painted an Eland, an omnipresent symbol in both the performance and rock art, they would harness its essence and open the portal to the spiritual world. The embodiment of action and speed was also central to San rock art. The frantic and fast nature of the trance dances could be a parallel to the latter. Channeling the Eland, the most potent of all animals to the San, the trance dance aspired to possess the Eland’s power. The process of becoming one with nature to the San was quite painful as many ancient rock art figures show the “unearthly” bent forward postures many shamans used to take on when doing the trance dance. The aforementioned was attributed to the great amount of pain felt when the power of the Eland overtook their bodies. 
In the dance, the naked and white bodies become actual rock art images that told a story of remembering and rekindling. “Vous-souvienz?!” or “do you remember?” was the final call the shaman-like man dressed in white called out to his progeny. These two simple words were the sheer embodiments of the essence of this performance: the hopes of reconnecting with a long-lost friend. These bodies were possessed by forgotten ancestors who yearned for modern humanity to be one with Earth. The rock, like the soil and flesh, are the only channels by which man can trace his primordial energy into the heart of Africa. 
Dominique Bohorquez 

Aia! was an ingenious crossover performance that linked elements of art, culture, and science. Using dance to create a bridge between human beings and nature, this piece was the sheer example of South African pride. The performance brought to light the San culture, the most ancient culture in the world. The San are the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa, living for at least 20,000 years. This dance performance explored the San’s experience and expression of origin, link to Mother Earth, and everlasting love for nature. Despite the excruciating discrimination this group underwent, this performance was not a display of the anguish and resentment the San people might still harbor. On the contrary, Aia! was a celebration of the origins that still live within all humans and that need to be awaken.

The dance began with the coming forth of a seemingly “ordinary” member of the audience. Approaching the stage with precaution and with the comfort of his cellphone, the dancer immediately shifted gears and engaged in a serious of peculiar yet enticing set of dances. Abandoning all mundane articles, the dancer was a vessel for the complete transformation of body and soul. Set in a crisp white venue or “a laboratory of evolution,” all three dancers evolved between dream and reality. The boundary between reality and fantasy was blurred, as dancers transported into and away from it without bounds. Through this exploratory journey, the dancers incorporated San elements of rock painting and trance dancing into their performance.

San rock painting and engravings were greatly tied in with the culture’s deeper religious and spiritual entities. When a shaman painted an Eland, an omnipresent symbol in both the performance and rock art, they would harness its essence and open the portal to the spiritual world. The embodiment of action and speed was also central to San rock art. The frantic and fast nature of the trance dances could be a parallel to the latter. Channeling the Eland, the most potent of all animals to the San, the trance dance aspired to possess the Eland’s power. The process of becoming one with nature to the San was quite painful as many ancient rock art figures show the “unearthly” bent forward postures many shamans used to take on when doing the trance dance. The aforementioned was attributed to the great amount of pain felt when the power of the Eland overtook their bodies.

In the dance, the naked and white bodies become actual rock art images that told a story of remembering and rekindling. “Vous-souvienz?!” or “do you remember?” was the final call the shaman-like man dressed in white called out to his progeny. These two simple words were the sheer embodiments of the essence of this performance: the hopes of reconnecting with a long-lost friend. These bodies were possessed by forgotten ancestors who yearned for modern humanity to be one with Earth. The rock, like the soil and flesh, are the only channels by which man can trace his primordial energy into the heart of Africa. 

Dominique Bohorquez 

“Shards” was inspired by Exhibit A. The poem is written from the perspective of the individuals responsible for the attack on the Nama people. 

Shards

By: Justin Coles

Off with their heads, one by one

Line them all up and they’ll soon be done

Yes you heard right, cut off their heads

And indeed these Nama people will soon be dead

We must clean our land by making it pure

Now everyone gather around and listen for I have the cure

Gather all the children and make them wait

They will quickly become anxious awaiting their fate

Cut off their heads and make the others watch

As the blood falls down from their neck to their crotch

But wait it’s not done, get a huge pot

Fill it to the brim with water until it’s unbearably hot

Toss in their heads and watch it boil

Yes cook their heads right here on their soil

Once they are boiled, eye balls and jaws

Force a Nama woman to clean their skulls

Give her shards of class in her bare hands

And watch as she cries for the heartache she cannot stand

Day 1, Thursday, June 28, 2012: Exhibit A

Exhibit A centers around the practice of human zoos from the mid-19th century up until the Second World War. Human zoos were major events that attracted tens of millions of Western Europeans and Americans to these spectacles of colonial domination, where people from the non-Western world were exhibited in enclosures. Exhibit A is a reenactment of these human zoos.

As I entered the first room of the exhibit, I saw two almost naked people – a Black woman and man. The figures looked as real as any other wax sculptures I had seen before. I looked at their bodies; I observed what they were dressed up in. They both had almost no clothes except for a piece of robe covering their middles. The woman had her breast exposed. The man had a hunting spear in his right hand. Their surroundings were modeled to depict nature. The whole scene looked like a reenactment of a typical tribal African man and woman. In front of these two people was a plate with their name, age, height, weight, place of birth, tribal affiliation, place of death and cause of death. As my sight was caught back and forth between the two people and the plate, a row of shivers ran through my body. Their eyes were following my eyes! They were not wax figures, but real people! That frightened me. I wanted to look into their eyes, but I felt deeply ashamed to do so. I wanted to look at their bodies again, but I felt somewhat embarrassed, I felt ashamed. After a moment of hesitation, I decided to proceed to the other rooms. What was to follow was even more difficult to assimilate.

The next room had a Black naked woman chained to a bed. Her back was facing me, but I could see her eyes and face through a mirror that was in front of her. Her eyes were the only moving element of the entire setting. Again, there was a descriptive text on a plate in front of her. The text provided “data” on the woman and also some background reading on the treatment of Africans during the colonial era. The rooms that followed had equally disturbing scenes of naked, dead, or tortured people. One room had a series of four chopped heads mounted on stands. The heads were singing classical and gospel music. This scene brought us back to the time when thousands of Africans were killed in order to prove the Nazi theories of racial supremacy. Another room had a similar sight. A woman of the Herero tribe in German South-West Africa (present day Namibia) was washing some skulls in a big kettle. The skulls belonged to the killed members of her village and were intended to prove theories of racial supremacy. The exhibit touched on other topics as well, such as the treatment of Africans in Western Europe and the treatment of the Colored people (of mixed racial descent) in South Africa. All these scenes were grave not only in the message they bore, but also in the way that message was transmitted.

Exhibit A was very different from any other exhibit precisely because it was a human zoo. It was striking and emotionally heavy for me to watch those people pose for us. I felt as if I had been transported back into the times of the events represented. I felt as if my bones were crushed by the gravity of the message and the sufferings of those people. Exhibit A was an immersion into the colonial history of South Africa in particular and the broader African continent in general. It was an immersion that no textbook could provide.

-C.G.

       My Freedom, My Expression

This was our first visual/fine art exhibition. It featured pieces created by artists from across the Eastern Cape. Run and presented by the Eastern Cape Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts & Culture, it was a testament to the work that government is doing to promote the arts. Reflecting on the work of artists past, the artists whose works were shown drew from South Africa’s rich and troubling past, allowing us to view it through a contemporary artist’s lens. The artists that worked in clay and ceramics had, for me, the most beautiful pieces. It was interesting to note that it was part of a continuing series that, last year, required artists to work from the inspiration of a single renowned artist and this year it is aptly named because the artists were given license to create whatever they wanted. The province is definitely fostering a great culture of having artists learn from other artists and work interpretively before letting them go off on their own – I think it does a lot for the education of the artists and if the pieces on exhibit are any indicator of the effectiveness of such, then it’s working perfectly!


Rutendo Chigora