‘JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues’ starts the conversation of inclusivity in the dance space

Unmuted Dance Company and Flatfoot’s ‘Longitude of Silence’ which staged at JOMBA! 2019. Picture: Val Adamson.

Unmuted Dance Company and Flatfoot’s ‘Longitude of Silence’ which staged at JOMBA! 2019. Picture: Val Adamson.

Published May 23, 2023


JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues” is a safe space for local and international artists, choreographers, dancers, dance-makers and researchers to continue to push boundaries while fostering change in the art space.

By challenging the status quo, creative individuals explore new ideas, styles and techniques of what is considered conventional, opening new possibilities and contributing to the evolution of the arts.

Hosted by the UKZN’s Centre for Creative Arts, in partnership with the University of Warwick and the African Dance Disability Network, the “JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues” takes place online from May 24 - 26.

This year's theme is “Integrated Dance Practices: Moving Centres”.

Dr Lliane Loots told “IOL Entertainment” that “JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues” continues to play an important role in impacting the much-needed change in the art space, particularly in the dance scene.

“The idea with these dialogues is to create a space for academics, researchers, dancers, dance-makers, practitioners, media people and anyone interested in pushing the agenda of thinking about dance as a serious political and socially viable art form, to find a way for them to come together to push the boundaries of what to think about in terms of performance.”

She said as a society we don’t often talk about disability as much as we talk about things like decolonising, racism and gender-based violence.

"Increasingly, there are a group of artists, locally and internationally, that are beginning to question the way in which we privilege certain bodies above other bodies.

“These dialogues are taking on this provocation, to find ways to think about inclusivity around disability. And it's not just about physical disabilities, it’s also about neurodiversity or intellectual disabilities and how we make spaces to include people.

“We're not only about the idea of giving people opportunities and working only in community spaces. We’re also interested in how a dancer in a wheelchair, becomes a professional performer and practitioner.

“Discussions around disability are lagging a bit in our country. It's important that a platform like this starts to place disability at the centre of our discussion around how you get to shift the art form towards inclusivity,” said Loots.

A group of people of different gender, race and body shapes in an Asylum Project dance at Judson Church. Picture: Ian Douglas.

In its third year, “JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues” features keynote addresses, panel discussions, Q & A sessions, workshops and online performance pieces on the idea of integrated dance.

“We’re looking at integrated disability dance practice and the idea of how artists living interface with communities of able-bodied, particularly in dance and the idea of how we create a space to imagine a performance discipline that is not just about valuing one particular kind of body.

“It's interesting because we’ve had lots of discussions historically about race and gender and how we include, and how we fix the past. This is really looking at disability and how we begin to, in an art form like dance, think about the idea of inclusion.

“The whole thing about ‘JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues’ are interested in looking at some of the forgotten areas of discussion; the idea of a body as an archive, the idea of how the body is remembering history, the idea of intimacies and the ideas of disabilities. These things are not generally mainstream discussions.”

Loot said the dialogues created a space where people from different backgrounds could come together and learn from one another.

“We want to find out what those artists that are working with wheelchairs are doing in the US, and how they are finding ways to teach and train and what can we learn, how we, as South Africans, can begin to teach and share with other practitioners.”

Calvin Ratladi and Phumlani Mndebele in ‘Plunge Avatar’. Picture: David April.

Professor Yvette Hutchison, Joseph Tebandeke and Calvin Ratladi are set to deliver keynote addresses among others.

“I'm going to be in conversation with Joseph, an artist from Uganda. He is a dancer, living with a disability. He’s got an extraordinary career.

“And he’s going to talk to us about his life as a Ugandan man living with a disability. He’s going to speak to us about the extraordinary artwork.

“I’m also excited to hear the voices of artists from Africa because those voices are very resonant with us in South Africa because there is that context and shared struggle.”

Joseph Tebandeke, in ‘The Forgotten One's’ (2022). Picture: Supplied.

For more information on this year’s panellist and the full programme visit www.jomba.ukzn.ac.za.

The “JOMBA! Masihambisane Dialogues” will be live-streamed to the JOMBA! YouTube Channel and can be accessed for free on www.youtube.com/jomba_dance.