WORKS: Mamela Nyamza – Choreography — SHIFT

Choreographed and danced by Mamela Nyamza. Assistant director: Hannah Loewenthal

The performance celebrates the lives of, and commemorates, all women in sport, including Eudy Simelane, the Banyana Banyana soccer player who was stabbed 27 times because she was acting ‘like a man’. The work draws attention to the stryggle of women in sport and to girl children who experience discrimination in their own country, such as is currently the case with Caster Semenya. Mixed media link the drama and the dance, the 1960s and the present day, contextualizing the stories and serving as a bridge between different places, times and spaces, giving context to the idea that issues relating to sexuality necer take place in isolation.

Fifteen years after democracy, what are the gaps between anti-apartheid aspirations and present day realities? Hoe can the most progressive constitution in the world, which was worked our and earned through a historic liberation struggler in South Africa and which enshrines equality  for people of all sexualities, be fulfilled in reality? It looks at private and public life, tradition and the law, the state and the individual, and at the struggle against apartheid and for sexual liberation.

The British Council funded Nyamza to create a piece about Eudy Simelane, Banyana Banyana star brutally murdered in 2008. apparently in response to her openly lesbian lifestyle. Initially, Nyamza struggles with the piece; ‘I got stuck because I felt like I had written the same work, about the two women. It was a simila thing. The others were shot and tied but this one was gang raped, stabbed and left in the field.’ ‘They said… she a “shero” in sports, a Banyana Banyana soccer player… While I was creating this work, when I was not actually creating, I was thinking about it the whole time. I was researching about her a lot, to a point where I thought, “It doesn’t take me somewhere I want to go.” Then there was a story about Caster Semenya… and I thought “Wow! Here’s the piece.” I realised I wasn’t going to talk about Eudy SImelane along {but] about women in sports.

‘So then I looked at women in sports in general; I looked at Zola Budd, back in the day; I looked at Caster Semenya. I even looked at wo,en overseas like the Williams sisters, Navratilova and the tennis; Eudy SImelane’s soccer, Banyana Banyana, and other women.’

With this change in direction, Nyamza’s imagination caught fire, leading to the creation of Shift. the work she performed at the Dance Umbrella. “Then is became personal. I went back – I was an athlete myself, at school; I was a sprinter… I used to be teased that I had legs like a boy’s, because I also used to do ballet, and then [my calf muscles] were really huge to a point where I was embarrassed to wear skirts. SO I saw the similarities, and then I thought the piece [would just show] my legs. SO I sis the piece in a white box – all white – with hanging balls.’ Nyamza begins the piece hanging suspended from a bar; this, along with the all white set, the presence of a fridge – which she ultimately climbs into, a cold coffin – are all symbolic of death, while several references to a kitchen also hark to the belief that women ‘must be cooking in the kitchen, [and] the fact that they’re killing women saying they they look so macho – those remarks about women in sports’.
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