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Art and Entertainment Section

'I stand corrected': Tracing a South African Queer Theatre

South Africa, 3 April 2013

By Selogadi Mampane

 

I Stand Corrected with Mojisola Adebayo and Mamela Nyamza

 

A new collaborative theatre work by Mojisola Adebayo and Mamela Nyamza, 'I STAND CORRECTED' (2013), based on a true story, has been making mouths flutter and headlines buzz as it makes its way around Johannesburg, Cape Town and England. The play recounts the events surrounding the marriage of a queer, cross-continental, interracial couple and details their fight for the right to love each other as equal citizens of our democracy. The play uses styles and forms of realism and surrealism and tries to capture the personal struggles and triumphs of the two women, placing them in different contexts but breaking their spatio-temporal distance with artistic suture. Nyamza and Adebayo both have the prowess of well-seasoned performers and execute the text with precision, grace, technique and skill, hardly ever dropping the ball.

 

The play opens with Nyamza, face first in a rubbish bin, leaving us to wonder how she got there, how she will make her way home and all the ways in which queer, same-sex relationships are often regarded as ‘head in the gutter’. We simultaneously come face to face with Adebayo, a lesbian woman ready to pledge her love for her partner in front of a room of family and friends whilst having to face hate and discrimination, from social and political institutions due to her sexual orientation. Adebayo and Nyamza make use of traditional theatre techniques to capture the lives of the two women, across their different universes and contexts. Even though the topic may be of an alternative nature, the imagery seen in the production, is not all too unfamiliar and the blocks used to construct the theatre piece become more apparent as some of the basic building blocks of Romantic Realism.

 

The production moves from surrealism and a kind of poor theatre, through the suggestion of contexts and a fewer assortment of props, the body as a main representation of ideas, and the physical expression of themes looking at our first moments with the dustbin, to the use of romantic lighting and visual elements, common and universal imagery and physical gestures. In this way, much of the production's raw subject matter was undermined by how neat, romantic and ideal the imagery became as the subject matter became heavier. Besides the prowess of the performers and the tight structure, which almost robbed the piece of its originality, the production took an adventurous moment to unpack the identity of ‘woman’, raising the questions and thoughts: what does it means to be a woman in South Africa?; what it means to be a lesbian; identifying how sex and gender form part of a social performance we adopt and perpetuate as members of a heteronormative society - how does one achieve heteronormative womanhood by adopting these performances? It is an overall captivating and solid performance from Adebayo and Nyamza and will entertain and warm your heart.

 

 

 

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About the collaborators

Mojisola Adebayo

Mojisola Adebayo

Mojisola Adebayo, British born, Nigerian / Danish performer, playwright, director, producer, workshop leader and teacher. Over the past 20 years, she has worked on theatre projects across the world including Antarctica, Botswana, Brazil, Belgium, Burma, Canada, Finland, Greenland, India, Ireland, Lebanon, Malawi, Mauritius, Norway, Pakistan, Palestine, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Syria, the USA and Zimbabwe. She has acted in over 40 theatre, television and radio productions, devised and directed over 30 scripts for stage and video and has lead countless workshops and training courses.

 

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(Picture courtesy Mojisola Adebayo's blog)

 

Mamela Nyamza

Mamela Nyamaza

Mamela Nyamza, award-winning dancer and choreographer, is not afraid to express herself - even if that means creating a completely new vernacular of dance to ensure her voice is heard. With integrity and dexterity, Nyamza challenges the conventional language of ballet and, in her own fiery vocabulary, uses dance to push herself, her body and audiences to places they have never been before. Her provocative dance pieces, inspired by her childhood in Gugulethu, are stories that draw parallels between dance and cultural traditions, social issues and autobiographical events - which she brings to a point, en pointe. 

Nyamza started dancing at the age of eight in Gugulethu and continued her training in Pretoria and New York before performing on stages and at festivals around the world. At 34, self-employed and mother of an 11-year-old son, Nyamza won the 2011 Standard Bank Young Artists Award for Dance, recognition she considers her reward for believing in herself and speaking her truth.

 

(Source: Lu Larché, Mail & Guardian - 200 young South Africans)

 

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About the Reviewer

Selogadi Mampane

 

Selogadi Mampane began performing at the age of 11 and has since never stopped. Her passion for performance necessitated exploration in the fields of research. She is currently undertaking her Masters studies at the University of Pretoria, in the field of gender, race, cultural, performance and film studies, focusing her research around female masculinity. She describes herself as an activist who utilises inter-disciplinary arts mediums to explore social issues. Her talents cover the disciplines of writing, directing and performance in film and theatre. Her performance work has been shown at the University of Pretoria and she has performed at platforms such as the Grahamstown Arts festival. She is most concerned with utilising arts mediums to explore the stories and experiences of LGBTIQ women. Her performance art is constructed through the processes of workshop, where she constructs art out of explorations done with her cast and the community around her. Selogadi believes that art is the means to explore, interpret and understand the world around her.

 

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