Mamela Nyamza

Mamela Nyamza was born and bred in Gugulethu township, near Cape Town in South Africa. From a tender age of 8 years whilst learning Ballet at the Zama Dance School in Gugulethu, Ms Nyamza, knew from the onset that, her love of body movement will eventually bring both prejudice and prestige to her career as a dance-theatre performing artist. Consistently ridiculed by her childhood peers for her athletic built toned body, to the ultimate rebuke and rejection of her natural body structure by her classical Ballet Teachers at tertiary level, Ms Nyamza inevitably was drawn to the politics of the body.

FORMALLY TRAINED AND QUALIFIED IN DANCE GENRE
In the midst of adversity, Ms Nyamza boldly proceeded to graduate from the Tshwane University of Technology with a National Diploma in Ballet in 1994. After acquiring her Diploma in Ballet, Ms Nyamza was awarded a working contract at the State Theatre, in Pretoria. It is during this tenure that Ms Nyamza started to think of radically deconstructing the normative expectations of who qualifies to be a classical Ballerina. In this process, she duly won an audition in 1999 for a prestigious scholarship to study further at the Alvin Ailey International School for Dance in New York, Unites States of America.

CHARTING WAY IN VISIONARY CHOREOGRAPHY
The extra experience Ms Nyamza got from the Alvin Ailey School of Dance, soon landed her lead dance roles in many high acclaimed International Musicals such as the Lion King, African Footprint, We Will Rock You. These quality stints as lead dancer, also exposed Ms Nyamza to other forms of dance, such as pantsula and hip-hop dance, providing her with distinct expertise in contemporary dance. Ms Nyamza’s distinction and vast experience in the genre of dance, promptly propelled to revive her initial quest to deconstruct all that is there to norm and expectations of the dance genre.

DANCING THEATRICS FOR JUSTICE IN THE ART
Vast accumulated experience in the field of dance became a solid foundation for Ms Nyamza’s distinction in creation, choreography and directing extra-ordinary fresh innovative works. By 2007, Ms Nyamza was already ahead of peers, and she was decisively awarded the Standard Bank National Young Artist for the Dance in 2011, due to her refreshingly innovative choreography and performance in the art of dance. Ms Nyamza’s highly acclaimed “HATCHED”, created in 2008, was her first work to kick-start her art programme of unapologetically demystifying, deconstructing and trampling on the norms and standards of the dance/classics.

VISIONARY ARTIST
Ms Nyamza’s immense contribution to dance-theatre and choreography, is now fast becoming legendary in the art of dance-theatre. Her various works since “HATCHED” (against patriarchy), including “THE MEAL” (against elitist ballet), “19-BORN 76-REBELS” (against youth discrimination and poverty), “LAST ATTITUDE” (against gender inequality in the dance), “I STAND CORRECTED” (against homophobia and hate crimes), “WENA MAMELA” (against gate keeping in the arts), “DE- APART-HATE” (against inhumanity and violence in society), and “PHUMA-LANGA” (against cultural domination), are all work-pieces that deal with important political and societal issues of today’s South Africa. Other major works of Nyamza include: “KUTHENI”, “ISIGQALA”, “SHIFT”, and “UMENDI”.

All these works have indeed propelled Ms Nyamza to embody and manifest the words of the Philosopher Allen Kaprow who said: “The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible”.

In many strokes of genius, Ms Nyamza has put herself in for activism for equity in the arts. Her strong belief that artists have the power to change the world the better, prompted Ms Nyamza to lead a four-women march against an exclusive elitist Theatre Awards Ceremony on 18th March 2017 in Cape Town.

Ms Nyamza’s quest to address the current state of arts in South Africa, which is still exclusive, elitist and fretted with acute patronage, has led her to create a trilogy of works: DE-APART-HATE; PHUMA-LANGA; and ROCK-TO-THE-CORE. With these works, Nyamza has indeed mastered the art of visionary and raw freshness in the field of DANCE. All these three works brilliantly raise pertinent issues of race; tolerance; identity; gate-keeping; equality; and equity audience development in the arts environment. Ms Nyamza’s newest work, BLACK PRIVILEGE, epitomises this trilogy in distinct and focused work of law and spirituality.

Ms Nyamza’s ultimate goal is to propel DANCE into the ultimate theatric and genre of the performance art that conveys body politics on all social issues, and not to just entertain.

Indeed, Ms Nyamza’s fierce critics allege that she is a “non-dancing conceptual” dancer. In her own words, Ms Nyamza counters: “one cannot separate concept from creation and choreography – they all must go hand-in-hand to yield to a complete performing artist”.

NUMEROUS ACCOLADES AND HONOURS

The accolades that Ms Nyamza has received over the years are indeed indicative that the Art Fraternity recognizes her immense contribution to the arts.

Ms Nyamza has just successfully finished her three-year tenure as one of the Advisory Panelist in DANCE for the South African National Arts Council (NAC).

Apart from receiving numerous nominations for awards, such as being nominated for the 2016 and 2017 BroadwayWorld South African Awards for Best Choreography in DE-APART-HATE and ROCK-TO-THE-CORE, Ms Nyamza received the following awards and achievements:

  1. Featured Artist of the Grahamstown Standard Bank National Arts Festival 2018, a first of its kind for the Dance Art Genre. This accolade is definitely one of the highest honor that can be bestowed to any South African artist, for the immense contribution done in the art field of the dance-theatre.
  2. Dance Umbrella Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer in Contemporary Style for “THE DYING SWAN” in 2000.
  3. Standard Bank Young Artist for the DANCE in 2010
  4. Standard Bank Ovation Award for “THE MEAL” in 2012
  5. University of Cape Town Institute of Creative Arts Fellowship Award in 2012
  6. 6. OPRAH WINFREY Women of the Year Award in 2013
  7. IMBOKODO Award for DANCE in 2016
  8. Identified by the DAILY REVIEW of Australia as one of the 30 International Artists to track in 2018, that are positively changing the world. “They are out there contributing toward peace, making work in conflict zones, growing understanding and awareness, facing misrepresentation, and organising for social change”: Shawn Lent, January 19, 2018 in http://www.dailyreview.com.au

Ms Nyamza has also travelled extensively, continuously being invited to National and International Arts Festivals, such as the Dance Umbrella, Infecting the City, and Standard Bank Fringe Festivals in South Africa, and many other International Festivals including in Congo, Germany, Mali, Belgium, Senegal, Slovenia, Singapore, and Canada.

Ms Nyamza’s work is currently being studied at various national and international universities, an indication that she is a versatile creator, choreographer and performing artist, who continues to provide relevance to both academia and the practice of arts.

Ms Nyamza’s ultimate vision is to create and direct more work that would reach the most remote areas of South Africa to unearth young, raw talent in the art of Dance in particular and performance arts in general. Ms Nyamza has already started with grass-roots work by providing mentorship workshop sessions.

Wikipedia Workshops

Art on our Mind received a Wikimedia Foundation Rapid Grant from July 2019 to June 2020, which will help facilitate our meetings. We aim to broaden the number of Wikipedia entries presenting women-of-colour artists from different fields of creative and cultural production.

The workshops will train skills for beginners, so everyone is welcome. Each workshop will be facilitated by experienced Wikipedia editors or representatives of Wikimedia South Africa. For those who are interested and can’t join the meetings, or are inter- ested to participate online, online tutorials will be made available.

The workshops will enable participants to create and upload new articles or to expand on existing entries. Please bring your laptop and identify an artist or group whose entry you want to create or expand (individually or in group work). We will work online, editing and creating entries in your sandbox. 

The workshops will draw from research generated by the Art on our Mind research project and participants work together creating and expanding Wikipedia entries on artists and creatives. We make use of a Wikimedia platform to coordinate our work:

More information about the workshops here: AOOM Wikipedia Workshops

Wikimedia Strategy 2030

More than 20 participants came to engage in discussions during the Wikipedia Salon with Wikimedia ZA director Bobby Shabangu on Friday, 2 August, with two focus areas of the Wikipedia 2030 strategy on the table which have been chosen by Wikimedia South Africa: Capacity Building and Diversity. Results of this discussion will be presented soon.

From the invite: Many people use Wikipedia as their first point of reference for their school research projects and general update on daily subject topics. The Wikimedia Foundation which runs Wikipedia would like to find out from you through a workshops which will be held in Johannesburg and Cape Town, how can they improve Wikipedia’s user interaction and how can they support content contribution so that it represent the diverse people who reads it, it’s a movement strategy which they aim to reach by year 2030 where Wikimedia content represents everyone who consumes and contributes to it.
This will not be edit workshops but Salon Strategy where participants will discuss and take a short survey afterwards. So, we would like to invite you to take part in this Salon Strategy Survey.
Over the next months Wikipedians around the world will be getting together to be part of this survey, so any ideas you have are very important to us.
Come through! Even if you want to listen to how the conversation is going.

Upcoming workshop dates

Wiki edit-a-thon
Friday, 23 August 2019, 3-5pm at Wits Writing Centre seminar room

African Feminisms (Afems ) Wikipedia panel discussion
Saturday 7 September 2019, 4-6pm at Wits Graduate School
Find out more about African Feminisms (Afems) or register here.

Afems 2019 Wikipedia panel and workshop

As Wikipedia enters the voting age this year, we will look a bit closer at the online encyclopedia’s accountability and in terms of its race, gender, sexuality and other bias, to inquire what programmes are in place to educate and decolonise this space of global knowledge collection. For this panel, Afems has invited Wikimedia South Africa director Bobby Shabangu and Wiki Loves Women co-founder Isla Haddow-Flood to speak about recent efforts of Wikimedia South Africa to change the way the online spaces frame what is “knowlege” who has access and who owns it.

Bobby Shabangu is Wikimedia ZA director of projects since 2013. His editing activities on Wikipedia focus on the African continent and the Joburgpedia project which involves several institutions. He organises workshops for Wikipedia training and is part of the Community Process Steering Committee for the Wikimedia Foundation working on formulating the 2030 Movement strategy.

Isla Haddow-Flood is a writer, editor and project strategist who is passionate about harnessing communication technology and media platforms for the advancement of open access to knowledge; specifically, knowledge that relates to and enhances the understanding of Africa via the Open Movement (and especially Wikipedia). Since 2011, Isla has been working with members of the WikiAfrica movement to conceptualise and instigate #OpenAfrica, Kumusha Bus and WikiEntrepreneur. She is the co-leader of projects such as Wiki Loves Africa (an annual photographic contest), Kumusha Takes Wiki (citizen journalists in Africa collecting freely-licensed content). In 2016, Isla has co-lead the NGO Wiki In Africa to instigate Wiki Loves Women (content liberation project related to African Women), WikiFundi (an offline editing environment that mimics Wikipedia) and WikiChallenge African Schools (that introduces the next generation of editors to Wikipedia).  She also volunteers her time to the Wikimedia Movement’s strategy process by being a Working Group member for Advocacy and is a member of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Annual Plan Grant committee.

Oral histories workshop:
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Wiki edit-a-thon
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Please email Fouad Asfour for more information.

Poster: Senzeni Marasela Creative Dialogue

An Art on our Mind CREATIVE DIALOGUE with Senzeni Marasela.
26 April  |  16.30h  |  2018
Seminar Room  |  School of Fine Arts  |   Somerset Street
Grahamstown, South Africa

An Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with Senzeni Marasela.

INTERVIEWS/FEATURES: Reshma Chhiba

Publications and interviews featuring Reshma Chhiba

Screaming, walk-in vagina at a former women’s prison
AFP news agency, 30 August 2013
A walk-in vagina has been installed at Johannesburg’s old women’s jail, to celebrate women’s month. Visitors are invited to enter the art work to a soundtrack of screaming and laughter, which represents the Hindu Goddess Kali.

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WORKS: Reshma Chhiba – Writing

Texts by Reshma Chhiba

Chhiba, R. (2017) The two talking yonis : the use of Hindu iconography in conversations of race, identity, politics and womanhood within contemporary South African art. Nidan : International Journal for Indian Studies, Volume 2 Number 2, pp. 44 – 60
This article looks at the use of Hindu iconography within South African visual art practice and its relation to race, identity, politics and womanhood in the work of Reshma Chhiba. It draws primarily on work from the 2013 exhibition entitled The Two Talking Yonis: Reshma Chhiba in conversation with Nontobeko Ntombela, and discusses Chhiba’s use of the image of the goddess Kali, the concept of yoni, the use of Bharatanatyam and understandings of feminine energy in relation to womanhood. It also threads a narrative of Chhiba’s ancestry through a poetic description of her grandmother’s journey from India to South Africa, and the embodiment of Kali as a form of defiance not only in her work, but also in her grandmother.
https://journals.co.za/content/journal/10520/EJC-c195dbc56

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WORKS: Reshma Chhiba – Performance

Bharatanatyam Choreography and Performance by/with Reshma Chhiba

ShrEe – I am more than just my body – Gandhi Hall, Lenasia, Johannesburg (Poster)

 

SHrEe: I am more than just my body
8 October 2017, Gandhi Hall, Lenasia, Johannesburg

SHrEe, the latest production by Sarvavidya Natyaalaya (SVN) is an unravelling nnd narrative thread of current social issues faced by women in contemporary South Africa. With the sub-theme of I am more than just my body, SHrEe takes its audience back to the time of the Mahabharata and the infamous moment of the disrobing of Draupadi. Threading into this narrative it moves to the present moment, and uses spoken word and contemporary dance movement to retell stories of violence and violation against women. The production slowly unpacks the various emotional stages that women, who have experienced some form of violation or abuse, go through. SHrEe aims to reveal the primal force within these women, the goddess in various stages of being, in various stages of womanhood. From the ferocious rage of the violated woman (Kali), to collective teaching, learning and fighting, where words and voice are weapons (Saraswati), to the ironies of how society treats women, whether married or widowed (Lakshmi) and finally it moves to the claiming back of space, of goddess/woman in a state of equilibrium, who is neither less nor greater than her male counterpart (Ardhanareswara).
ShrEe gives space to female voices who claim their emotional, physical and spiritual power back. “In a country where femicide and rape culture are so rife that it has become a norm, this production aims to bring these narratives and discussions into the public domain through the use of dance” (Chhiba, 2017). Abuse and violation should never be acceptable, therefore I am more than just my body speaks to many variations of abuse but also allows for empowered voices to be heard.”
From www.sarvavidya.co.za

Continue reading “WORKS: Reshma Chhiba – Performance”