In a dance piece titled Indumba, Fana Tshabalala, the award-winning choreographer, leads his troupe to a graceful state of healing.
Indumba is a word referring to a hut in which a traditional healer or shaman carries out cleansing ceremonies and the ritual itself.
Tshabalala read the work of Paul Granjo who wrote about cleansing ceremonies conducted in Mozambique after the revolution and civil wars there.
The ceremonies were performed to help heal the community and help the war veterans get over the scars and trauma of the armed conflicts they witnessed and took part in.
The creative process meant Tshabalala had to spend some time in Mozambique, researching the practice and speaking to people who witnessed or participated in the cleansing ceremonies.
On stage, Tshabala and his troupe are challenged to not only codify the cleansing ceremony in imaginative and captivating ways.
They are also moved to find personal meaning out of a ritual tradition from elsewhere.
So the danced narrative becomes two-fold. The dancers must reach into their own moments of conflict to shape what they bring to the performance. These personal moments then mingle with the historic ritual of the Mozambicans to shape the production.
The idea of a cleansing ritual naturally conjures up images of water and themes of immersion.
However, to expect these in the dances motif is to miss the point of what Tshabalala and his team choreograph on-stage.
This is not a re-enactment of the Indumba as it was practiced in post-war Mozambique. It is a derivative.
It is something akin to a metaphor for cleansing rituals that any human engages in to transcend the burdens of their past.
The improvised parts in the otherwise sterling choreography open up the door to a slight verbosity of gestures in the danced text. It is like over indulging in adjectives.
However, this is not an unforgivable shortcoming. These dancers are sincere and deliver on the promise that accompanied the anticipation of Tshabalala’s first performance at this year’s National Arts Festival.
Indumba is created on the back of Tshabalala’s Standard Bank Young Artists of the Year Award in dance.
» Indumba is on today at 4pm and tomorrow at 2pm and 6.30pm at Rhodes Theatre in Grahamstown.
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