University of Pretoria: UP pair dances their way to top spot at JOMBA! dance festival

University of Pretoria (UP) School of Arts graduate Kagiso Masinda recently danced her way to the top spot at the JOMBA! dance festival. The screen dance, which merges film and dance choreography to create a cohesive art form, was directed by Carrick Keating, a UP student who is doing his honours in Drama.

JOMBA! is a contemporary dance festival that takes place annually at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Creative Arts. This year’s event was held online and required applicants to record their dance pieces in video format.

Masinda and Keating’s dance piece, called Fenya, was created in 2020 for a student exam project, and depicts the lives of black women and the struggles they encounter. The word “fenya” is a Sesotho word that translates as “conquer”. “The woman in the piece is fighting all the things that women encounter on a daily basis – that which does not favour women and inherently excludes them,” explains Masinda, a choreographer and performer from Zimbabwe. “The piece touches on issues like gender-based violence, patriarchy and exclusion in the workplace.”

Dance reviewer Alexander Dale described Fenya as “a powerful collaboration”. “With a stunning embrace of screen dance as a union between technology and body, the work creates a divided dimension torn between Setswana pride and the contemporary impositions. In Masinda’s breath-taking performance of choreography, evolving out of domestic acts such as scrubbing, there is a consistent and brave challenge to the colonial ethnographic tradition, which to this day, has continued to burden the black femme body. Masinda fights this way of looking and its lopsided power dynamic through the simple act of looking back. She claims her right as empowered subject and breaks the paralysing stare of colonialism by moving: she moves beyond the ‘either or’ life that has been presented to her; she moves into her power.”

Fenya was inspired by the work of the Zimbabwean-born, US-based choreographer and performer Nora Chipaumire. “Her work focuses on racial and gender stereotypes. I took inspiration from an extract and created my own piece with the same themes of gender and racial stereotypes,” Masinda says. “I was helped by my lectures, Kristina Johnstone and Professor Marth Munro, and was teamed up with Carrick Keating, who helped me with the shooting and editing of the dance piece.”

“We competed against people from all over Africa, and this was the first project we’ve done on this scale,” Keating says. “It was absolutely mind-blowing to hear we had won; I really wasn’t expecting it. I was just grateful to be considered among so many great performers, but this win also serves as confirmation that people resonated deeply with Kagiso’s story. It is a huge honour.”

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