The stage is set for JOMBA! 2023

Dancers perform Mamela Nyamza’s “Hatched Ensemble”. Picture: Supplied

Dancers perform Mamela Nyamza’s “Hatched Ensemble”. Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 22, 2023


Dance crews from South Africa and the world are ready to bust out their moves at the 25th JOMBA! Contemporary Dance Experience.

This year’s festival includes renowned dance crews like Unmute Dance Theatre from Cape Town, Joseph Tebandeke from Uganda and Introdans from Netherlands, among other talents.

A performance from Unmute Dance Theatre. Picture: Supplied.

Under the theme “(in)tangible heritages”, the 13-day explosive programme, hosted by the Centre for Creative Arts (UKZN), gets underway from August 29 to September 10 at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre and other venues in Durban.

Marking the milestone celebration, festival organisers have upped the ante by including a host of international guests as well as after performance talks, a 25th anniversary book launch, a series of free workshops and master classes, a lighting workshop, a screen dance residency, a dance writers residency and a smaller curated festival at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg amid scores of dance performances.

Opening the 2023 festival is South African choreographer and dancer Mamela Nyamza with her work titled “Hatched Ensemble”. She has also been chosen as this year’s JOMBA! Legacy Artist.

Festival curator and artistic director Dr Lliane Loots said, “JOMBA! celebrates Mamela for her vision and practice and for significantly contributing to our countries rich critical contemporary dance history and legacy.

“JOMBA! is proud to celebrate her as one of South Africa’s most important dance voices – and to celebrate her very tangible heritage in the lexicon of African dance making.”

“Hatched Ensemble”, which is a follow up to her 2007 solo work “Hatched”, also staged at the National Arts Festival in June.

Originally “Hatched” offered an autobiographical work that reflected on Nyamza’s life as a mother and artist Now, in the 2.0 version, she builds on this almost 16 years later.

The work is performed by nine ballet trained dancers from different racial and gendered backgrounds.

It challenges issues of tradition, gender norms within the dance classics, and various issues around identity and belonging. It also references both classical western music and dance, with traditional African vocal scores.

The work speaks to anyone who has ever felt a conflict with their own identity and questioned where they belong within the status quo.

2021 and 2022 Legacy Artists Jay Pather and Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe will also be showcasing their works.

Pather joins Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre in “Surface Tension”. This new work is an interdisciplinary site responsive choreography that considers surface – layers of topographic maps, skin, hair, metal, cloth - as prompt to re-find the body.

While Mantsoe teams up with Gail Parmel for “Mana -The Power Within”, which will be performed by Birmingham (UK) company Ace dance and music as part of a double bill programme titled “Unknown Realms”.

“Unknown Realms” also features KwaMashu born, Flatfoot dancer Mthoko Mkhwanazi, who is currently on a year long residency with Ace dance and music. This work will debut at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre on September 9 at 7.30pm and September 10 at 2.30pm.

Ace dance and music performance, “Mana -The Power Within”. Picture: Supplied

Another exciting addition to this year’s JOMBA! On The Edge platform are two KwaZulu-Natal dance makers, Marcia Mzindle and Lorin Sookool.

On the Edge is a programme that supports fresh, innovative contemporary dance work coming out of, or linked to, the KZN region. Both Mzindle and Sookool received grants to create and present work.

Mzindle has created a screen dance film for the JOMBA! YouTube channel titled “Into Emdaka”. It will premiere on Thursday, September 7 6pm.

Marcia Mzindle’s “Into Emdaka”. Picture: Supplied.

Explaining her work, Mzindle, who is on a spiritual journey, said, "I am a young black South African woman, a performance maker, and am currently on a continuous journey of Ubungoma (sangoma training).

“This work is a negotiation of all three of these shifting identities. The work focuses on re-imagining the black female body as a 'site of possibilities' that unveils its multiple identities, focusing on where the invisibility in relation to systematic oppression and hyper-visibility in my body politics dwells.”

Sookool has created “Woza Wenties!” that will be performed at the Howard College Campus (UKZN) on September 8 and 9 at 6pm.

Lorin Sookool’s “Woza Wenties!”. Picture: Supplied

Sookool's work explores complex South African socio-political themes, with a focus on situations of racial, gendered, systemic and institutionalised violence as she sets out to understand her own erasure by de-constructing the colonial projects undertaken in many South African schooling systems post 1994.

“Woza Wenties!” comes with a PG 16 age restriction.

Loots said that the festival is delighted to support Mzindle and Sookool’s dance work as part of stimulating young women artists to push boundaries and find their unique voices.

“Both these intrepid dance makers have been tracked by the JOMBA! curatorial team for the ongoing challenging and intersectional gender sensitive work they are producing.”

Tickets are R80 or R50 (students, scholars, pensioners) or R350 for a once-off full festival pass to see everything. Booking through Computicket. For more information, go to