So this is what full circle feels like. Ululating so hard you can hear young vocal chords, at full stretch, actually vibrate. Masculine yells, hands clapping on and on, arms outstretched, tears.
We are two Critters, a ballie and a mom, the teeniest minority in this historic event — the new National Arts Festival generation announcing its arrival. It is at the precise moment that Gregory Vuyani Maqoma, dancer, choreographer, extraordinary creative, so courageous through all these years of violence and discrimination, reaches down and touches the soil.
Today an entire new generation of festinoes crammed into the Rhodes Theater is expelling its joy and appreciation in one enormous, cacophonous sigh. For Maqoma it is goodbye. To me it feels like hello!
He has taken us on an journey I will never forget. I recall one of his first performances so many years ago. A cold Great Hall, a lined square and this beautiful man, moving, splashes of red and white and a smattering of people.
This was the new dance, a weave of formal, modern, theatre, clowning and raw, excruciating physicality. Every particle screeched originality, defiance, and just plain old think!
Today that audience is so locked in, so intertwined, that every light shift, every symbol, sound, movement evokes and emotional uproar that is vocal or just in the ether.
We travel through time on the wings of an incredible African score from Simphiwe Dana, soaring with the operatic voices of Complete, and tuned into the global by fusion guitarist Giuliano Modarelli.
There is so much to hear, see, sense.
Every artistic moment is sublime, even those damn projectors are used magnificently — the entire backstage wall is black backdrop to a huge, grainy, drawing of commander in chief Jongumsobomvu Maqoma, one of the greatest Xhosa commanders in the frontier resistance to the colonialism of the 1800s.
This is Gregory Vuyani communing with his ancestors — and us. It floors me how symbolism embedded in great theatre and dance is now being lapped up by the new audiences.
They understand more than I ever will. But I am running along after you, feeling it and wanting still to be a part of this expression, grateful that Gregory Vukani Maqoma has included these rebels from the white colonial block in the folds of his blanket.
Staring into the abyss of our future is its own agony, but the Maqoma’s, through this phenomenal representative, are drawing in the world, showing us a humanism and generosity many do not deserve.
There is a moment of blackness in the piece which pierces through; Maqoma has washed in a healing oil, and he sits there body shining and beautiful. That body has jived, and jiggled, it has stomped, it has been coquettish, it has been everything to all of us.
And there it is now, about to exit this stage forever, muscles coiled and defined, a picture no human could ever put into words of colour. A God ray.
We have been enjoined, despite our sinful, thoughtless past, in this journey through Xhosa ancestry and the ancestry of South African dance.
He has exited but we exist fabulously, in gratitude.