Albert Silindokuhle Ibokwe Khoza in performance. Photo credit: John Hogg.
Blood red lights radiate down on us. Their buzzing heat intensifies. Dismal looking cattle appear on the screen upstage. We, herded together in discomfort… witness another being birthed into this world.
Slowly, slight shifts emanate from the until now static structure downstage. A man picks up a knife. He is Thabo Pule, the camera controller who determines our mediated perspective. Now, on screen we watch live feed from above. Transfixed, we witness the huge knife tearing at the plastic wrap encasing of a body – is it a trapping, or a cocoon; has he escaped, or is this an awakening, a transformation?
Robyn Orlin and Albert Ibokwe Khoza have created a masterpiece, using twisted depictions of the seven deadly sins to expose our society’s obsession with consumption and disposability. …slice by slice… is gruelling to experience and is unremitting in its scathing commentary. But Khoza’s personality carries the work’s heaviness – he deftly weaves humour into topics where there shouldn’t be any.
We laugh at the heightened way he does things: slurping up chunks of orange off a carving knife; when he asks a white woman, “did you grow up with a maid all your life?”; when he bleats whilst cracking a sjambok.
With giggly delight, Khoza consumes orange after orange, dangerously drawing a serrated knife along his lips, and gradually, wildly grunting as he cannot stuff in anymore. So much waste. In this scene is revealed the violent act that is our excessive eating, our ‘foodie’ habits… towards those who sleep hungry every night.
“You jealous me”, Khoza sings, as envious eyes admire the large gems on each of his close-up fingers. Personal envy fuels capitalism – gotta keep up with the Joneses! Buy more! But Khoza’s subtle mention of our land’s beautiful minerals and a mention of the queen of England… gets us thinking: colonisers, the Cullinan, the reaping of another land’s wealth. Who benefits from the mineral-rich land now? Who wears the expensive sparkly jewels?
The house lights illuminate us as we appear on screen, mirrored on the opposite side of the stage. Seeing ourselves watching. We are complicit.
And what are our middle-upper class sins?
Do we eat three meals a day while children starve on the streets? Do we enjoy wearing precious diamond jewellery while mining magnates continue to dehumanise and exploit their workforce? Do we welcome foreign economic investment without questioning the human rights violations in that country? Do we rename people because their names are ‘difficult’, stripping them of their identity whilst they raise our kids and clean our mess?
Oh, there’s so much more to write about. But to understand the questions above, you need to witness Khoza using striking imagery, moving song, mediated reality, and a sjambok-intertwined-peacock-tail… to ask them. Because nothing is overstated even though everything is larger than life.
…and so you see… our honourable blue sky and ever enduring sun… can only be consumed slice by slice… is the most astounding work of theatre / live art that I’ve seen in quite a while. It’s a thorough indictment on life in SA (and the world), offering no solutions, no glimmer of hope. It is a “requiem for humanity”.