Maqoma in dance to resistance

Gregory Maqoma
Gregory Maqoma

Through his piece Exit/Exist, seasoned choreographer and contemporary dancer Gregory Maqoma revisits his ancestral history and celebrates his heritage.

The performance is on until Sunday at the Market Theatre in Newtown, Joburg.

The well-conceptualised piece premiered in 2012 and was brought back to celebrate Africa month.

Maqoma, who comes from the Rharhabe clan in Eastern Cape, celebrates the likes of his great-grandfather Chief Maqoma, who was arrested after he ordered the English colonisers to return Xhosa land. He died on Robben Island in 1873.

In the performance, Maqoma's dance is accompanied by four singers and guitarist Giuliano Modarelli who help to tell the story through their harmonious vocals, and with musical composition from Simphiwe Dana.

Maqoma enters the stage wearing a shiny grey suit, and stands in the middle with his back turned to the audience. The dance begins as the audience sits back. Maqoma entertains and thrills with different moves. The amazing music adds more spark to the performance.

In one of the scenes, singers start singing Umaqoma in celebration, and Maqoma then places a plate on top of his head and skilfully dances with it without falling. He sways his hips while fusing umxhenso (Xhosa traditional dance) with modern styles.

According to Maqoma, the core of the piece is memory; rephrasing the notion of existence and of simply existing in order to exist.

"The production takes a moment to pause, to look back, to rewind the tape to the days when the tapestry of South Africa was about the collision of biographies."

Maqoma's bigger emphasis is on how a visual element is used to tell this tale, while underpinning the musicality.

In Exit/Exist, he is not only celebrating his people but all traditional chiefs who fought against the colonisers.

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