In her ground-breaking research article,”Men Behaving Differently: South African Men Since 1994”, Liz Walker explains that: “Liberal versions of sexuality, which mark South Africa’s new democracy, have had a number of highly contradictory consequences for women and men, as old notions of masculinity and male privilege have been destabiliSed. 

The transition to democracy has precipitated a crisis of masculinity.”

Walker says that “orthodox notions of masculinity are being challenged and new versions of masculinity are emerging in their place. 

Some men are seeking to be part of a new social order while others are defensively clinging to more familiar routines. Masculinity, male sexuality, and the expectations which men have of themselves, each other and women are contested and in crisis.”

In the artistic arena, contemporary choreographers are equally interested in how men negotiate their manhood in a period of social turbulence and transition. 

At this year’s Dance Umbrella no less than four choreographers are exploring these transitionary notions. 

Fractured is choreographed by Fana Tshabalala and performed by Moving Into Dance Mophatong dancers Tshabalala, Muzi Shili, Thembi Setiabi, Thandi Tshabalala and Sonia Radebe. Picture: Joh Hogg

Musa Hlatshwayo’s Doda (March 10-11, Dance Factory) is a dance theatre duet that explores black male identity and issues around modern-day and traditional masculinity in a society that is faced with the struggle of (re)negotiating its collective political socio-political identity. 

The piece was inspired by the recent incidents in the political scene of South Africa, the ongoing deaths of young black women and the campaigns that were created in response to such. 

It highlights characters like Qhubinja, Mzimb’okhal’imali, DJ Tshatha, President Gedle’ey’hlekisa Zuma and the many men whose acts, lifestyles and opinions continue to shape and (re)define a movement that imposes what traditional male Nguni identity should be, while many young women continue to be brutally murdered and exploited in men’s quest for power, and while our country continues to suffer because of highly questionable leadership.  

In explaining the essence of his work, Hlatshwayo quotes American author, feminist, and social activist Bell Hooks: “The first act of violence that patriarchy demands of males is not violence toward women. 

“Instead, patriarchy demands of all males that they engage in acts of psychic self-mutilation, that they kill off the emotional parts of themselves. If an individual is not successful in emotionally crippling himself, he can count on patriarchal men to enact rituals of power that will assault his self-esteem.”

Dance Mophatong dancers. Picture: John Hogg

This award-winning duet, performed by Hlatshwayo and Sibonelo China Mchunu, is a new addition to Mhayise Productions’ repertoire and received critical acclaim at this year’s NAF, including the Standing Ovation Merit Award.

Men, by Fana Tshabalala and Vladimir Ippolitov (10 & 11 March  10-11, Joburg Fringe Theatre) is a work inspired by the idea of the “ideal kind of man” within society and how the roles and responsibilities have changed through the years, leaving “Man” in a state of bewilderment. 

A man in society is expected to be brave, industrious and domineering and if this is not achieved, most men end up losing their image and ego as the dominant figure in society. This work will explore the role of men as strong and muscular, as being more a cliché in modern society; it explores other types of men – gentle, sensitive, caring, a man not afraid of giving voice to his feelings; and men who, when needed, will shoulder the burden of taking care of the next person.

Auth(o)rise, by Themba Mbuli, asks the question: “How do women become authors of their own lives if they’ve been told how they should be living socially, traditionally and/or religiously?” 

The work forms part of a double bill and will be performed at the Wits Downstairs Theatre on 17 & 18 March 17-18. 

Nothing Makes Sense by Thulani Chauke (March, 17-18, Wits Amphitheatre) is an interrogation of violence, with a specific focus on the violence that which emerges because of our continued human obsession with systems of classification based on sex, race, gender, sexuality, class, culture and physical ability. 

The work is an investigation of the full spectrum of violence that we are all subjected to as a result of these systems, from full-blown physical acts of racist, sexist, homophobic or classist violence to much subtler forms of violence that restrict, restrain, moderate or mould our behaviour. 

* Dance Umbrella 2018 happens from 6 to 18 March 6-18.  Book through For programme details, Visit www.