WORKS: Mamela Nyamza – Choreography

Select solo and group performances by Mamela Nyamza

2017

De-Apart-Hate at Johannesburg, Dance Umbrella, 2017

Afrovibes Festival 2017, The Netherlands

In DE-APART-HATE award-winning South African dancer, choreographer and arts activist Mamela Nyamza shows the oppression of women and (gay) sexuality by the church and how to overcome this. The performance is a search for personal freedom, a breathless duet in which she dances with the Bible between her legs. Mamela explores the limits of dance, performance and provocation. DE-APART-HATE gives a glimpse into the current power structures of South Africa where a cry is rising for decolonization of culture. 

Kgomotso Moncho-Maripane: Mamela Nyamza’s De-Apart-Hate At Dance Umbrella. Huffington Post 23/02/2017 

2015

The Last Attitude, Nelisiwe Xaba and Mamela Nyamza.
Mamela Nyamza and Nelisiwe Xaba take us with them on this exploratory piece, The Last Attitude, which pushes the boundaries and acceptable norms of ballet. Taking on themes of lightness and heaviness, strict movements and free experimentation, they switch effortlessly between the male and female roles. The piece sets out to explore the relationship between men and women in ballet, juxtaposing male and female, support and exploitation, they travel through a number of scenarios in which the typical dynamics of ballet are subverted. Report by Campbell Easton & Aphile Aphile Silolo School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University.

19 BORN 76 REBELS

Conceptualised and designed by Mamela Nyamza; performed with Faniswa Yisa
Originally co-produced with the SADC, Festival d’Avignon for the France-South Africa seasons 2012- 2013; previously presented at the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, 2014.

Video preview from the Festival d’Avignon.

19 BORN 76 REBELS at Zeitz MOCAA

2013 

Okuya Phantsi Kwempumlo at Infecting the City, ICA, Cape Town

Having recently returned from sold-out performances at the Ovalhouse in London, highly acclaimed choreographer and Donald Gordon Creative Arts Fellow, Mamela Nyamza, presents a startling dance performance Okuya Phantsi Kwempumlo (The Meal), for which she received a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival 2012. Also featuring Dinah Eppel and Kirsty Ndawo, the work celebrates the creative capacity of young South Africans to subvert and transform instruments of oppression and denigration into expressions of ecstasy and beauty; and reflects on the relationship between women from different generations and races.

A short preview of Mamela Nyamza’s – Okuya Phantsi Kwempumlo / The Meal. Filmed live at The National Arts Festival 2012 in Grahamstown, South Africa. 

2012 

I Stand corrected, physical theatre, with the British theatre producer Mojisola Adebayo. Ovalhouse, London; Soweto Theatre, Johannesburg; Artscape, Cape Town

Mojisola Adebayo and Mamela Nyamza: I Stand Corrected, Edward Wren, Total Theatre

Okuya Phantsi Kwempulo (The Meal). Three women show, South African National Arts Festival 2012 (Standard Bank Ovation Award)
Conceptualised, choreographed and directed by Nyamza, the work is performed together with Dinah Eppel and Kirsty Ndawo. Okuya Phantsi Kwempulo considers cooking, eating, art, love and sex. “Before a meal can be eaten, preparation is necessary. The most basic division is between the creator of the meal and those who are being served. This work examines the process in which the eater becomes one with the meal, though the process of reaching satisfaction can take many forms”, Nyamza comments.

2011 

Isingqala and Amafongkong are collaborative productions with the Adugna Dance Theatre Company (Ethiopia) at the National Arts Festival (Grahamstown, South Africa, 2011), and African Footprints (2006).

Isingqala, performed, directed and choreographed by Mamela Nyamza, National Arts Festival, Grahamstown South Africa; Different Voices – Bates Dance Festival, USA; Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Slovenia.

Bates Dance Festival, Danse Afrique Day 3

Amafongkong 
Ethiopian Adugna Dance company; South African National Arts Festival 2011 

Abangxolayo (Noise makers) choreographed by Mamela Nyamza, premiered at GoetheonMain

Nyamza describes the Noise Makers as “all of those who are no longer in our existence, their names are written everywhere and we still hear of them even today”.
About the performance, which she will create in a collaborative process with a group of dancers at GoetheonMain, Nyamza explains that “it’s like a beauty contest, a function, but yet we are going to mourn or commemorate all of those who have left us with something to celebrate. It talks about the past at once and moving forward with what has been powerfully done by those who never kept quiet, be they artists, politicians, students, children or philosophers. This is a piece written by bodies creating moving images that will not be understood but yet will say something powerful to the viewer.”
Artslink

2010

Hatched performed, directed and choreographed by Mamela Nyamza at Out The Box Festival 2010 (Grahamstown South African National Arts Festival 2010); Dance Umbrella, London 2011; the 8th Pan-African dance biennial, Danse l’Afrique danse! in Mali, Bamako.

Art Africa Magazine: Danse l’Afrique danse!

Festival Brochure

HATCHED by Mamela Nyamza

Dance Umbrella 2011, Performed on 28 and 29 October at The Place
Mamela Nyamza’s autobiographical and passionate Hatched reveals an intriguing tension between Western balletic conventions and traditional African forms. A moving and evocative piece, Hatched conveys the challenging issues of a woman’s evolving sexuality within the customary rites and rituals of marriage. 

SHIFT by Mamela Nyamza

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. (Artist statement)

Fancy footwork, now world’s at her feet. The Star 27 Oct 2010.

Mendi 2, Dance Factory, Newtown
Sunday Times 14 February 2010: Moving Bodies made to tell stories that matter

2009 

Kutheni, two women show performed by the members of Jazzart Dance Theatre, commissioned work for the FNB Dance Umbrella

I-Dolls,performed by the Cape Dance Company, commissioned by the South African National Arts Council

2008 

If Clothes Could Talk, performed by the Cape Junior Ballet

Our Fear, outreach project performed by Dance for All students

HATCH,one woman show, performed by Mamela Nyamza, On Broadway, Cape Town

“Hatch is a dance piece that seeks challenging issues of culture to convey, tradition and woman’s evolving sexuality with and outside the customary rites and rituals of marriage, starting from the time a girl-child is born until she realises her true identity after years of hardship in a loveless marriage.”
Mamba Online

Mexico: Foro Performatica, festival brochure

2007 

The Classroom, performed by the Zama Dance School

2006 

Some of Us Can Change, performed by the Zama Dance School

2005

Angels in Strip, with the Free Flight Dance Company at Arts Cape; Window into a World

2003 

Umakoti welixesha,The Woman’s Festival at the Dance Factory, Johannesburg

2002

Performed at the opening of the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

2000

Lead / Principal Dancer for hit musical(2000). Toured in London, UK and Atlanta, US

1999 

Reality Check,The State Theatre Dance company, Johannesburg

1997 -2000

Performed with State Theatre Dance Company,SA. The first public performance with the company, FNB Dance Umbrella, followed by the KKNK in Oudtshoorn; Oude Libertas; Grahamstown National Arts Festival; Dance Factory and the Civic Theatre seasons. First trip out of the country with the company: Israel, performed in Eilat and Ranana. Collaborated with The Danish Company (1997- 199) and performing inDenmark, Finland, Switzerland. performed internationally choreographed pieces by Robert North, Edd Wubb, Redha and Bebe Miller and South African choreographed pieces by Candice Johnstone, Esther Nasser, Alfred Hinkel’s famous Bolero, Debbie Rakusin; Sean Bovim & Christopher Kindo’s Me and You.

1995-1996

Performed with Pretoria Dance Technikon in all of their seasons, performed in works of South African acclaimed choreographers such as

Vincent Mantsoe, Moeketsi Koena, Boyzie Cekwane, Robyn Orlin; David Matamela; Debbie Rakusin and Sonia Mayor.

1986 -1993

Grahamstown Arts Festival; FNB Dance Umbrella; Sea Point Eistedford with the Zama dance school. Works choreographed by Arlene Westergaard and the students of the school.

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.

CREATIVE DIALOGUE

Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with South African Dancer and Choreographer Mamela Nyamza and Beverley Barry on 6 September 2019 at Wits Theatre. The event was part of the African Feminisms (Afems) conference 2019: Theorising from the Epicentres of our Agency, at the Wits School of the Arts, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa.

The event was part of the African Feminisms (Afems) conference 2019: Theorising from the Epicentres of our Agency, at the Wits School of the Arts, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa

AUDIO: Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with Mamela Nyamza

TRANSCRIPT: Art on our Mind Creative Dialogue with Mamela Nyamza

Find Mamela Nyamza on Instagram

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WORKS by Mamela Nyamza

CHOREOGRAPHY

PRESS AND REVIEWS on Mamela Nyamza

INTERVIEWS/FEATURES
REVIEWS


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’.
CreativeFeel (formerly ClassicFeel)