Abangxolayo makes all the right noises

Mamela Nyamza’s provocative and dialogue sparking pieces have created quite a reputation for her. The latest piece titled “Abangxolayo (Noise Makers) which was showcased at the arts on main is yet another feather on her cap Nyamza uses a group of lesbian women in this  intense piece about sexuality and gender roles.

The room is divided into two with one side dark and the other light. The dark side has charcoal scattered on the floor with posters all over, and a drum with steam coming out. The young women move across the space in silence . invading it in the language of movement.

As the piece goes deeper and deeper it becomes more sexual. There’s a kissing scene that sparks some reaction from the audience, proving that a kiss between two people of the same gender is still considered taboo by many.

Torches are used to navigate from one scene to another. All seems blurry until the very last scene where the puzzle seems to connect. One by one they cross a rope made of the stockings they were wearing, with each stripping off and revealing their true selves. They eventually come out dressing as butch lesbians breaking into a dance that shows the audience the middle finger showing a “I don’t care” attitude. Nyamza has successfully managed to weave a tapestry that merges, dance, theatre and social commentary in a telling way.  Abangxolayo is about the noises that gay and lesbian people make in a society that is silent about issues of alternative sexuality.  

Speaking on the production, she accurately describes the changing paradigms of putting such an eclectic piece of work together. . “At first I wanted to use gay men in the play, but then I had this group of lesbian women so I thought why not, it would be great. And of course they are butch so I thought it would be great to have them in dresses” she said.

Nyamza also expressed that it was a bit difficult putting together the performance because this time round she was dealing with real people not performers. The piece which was commissioned by the Goethe-Institute of South Africa gave the performers a platform to attempt to address the issues surrounding sexual orientation.  Especially on the backdrop of several women having been murdered all around the country for being lesbians.

She added, “This is celebrating so many things good and bad, but at the same time saying we are not going anywhere. This is who we are, accept it and stop abusing us”. In Abangxolayo Nyamza has created something that many contemporary dancers in South Africa fail to do. She has created a political piece of art that is both relevant and refined.

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