Musa Hlatshwayo. PICTURE: Val Adamson
Musa Hlatshwayo, the current National Arts Festival’s Young Artist awardee for Dance, is bringing his new dance piece, Ndoni, to the Playhouse for the South African Women Arts Festival. 

What is dance to you?

It is the voice with which I express myself. It is the language that I speak best and can explore and experiment with while breaking boundaries.

It is my calling, my being and my livelihood. It is poetry in motion, messages from the spiritual world translated into the physical. It is languages, rediscovered and re-imagined.

Many people think dance is a pastime, not a career. How did you make a successful career?

I had to study the arts and train at various institutions and also from inspirational people. I had to distinguish between entertainment, arts and extramural activities.

I had to understand the kind of world we live in and the need to address the many social ills and the socio-politics of our society so that I could start working towards being a socio-political scientist, anthropologist and cultural activist through my art.

I had to also bring forth that which will not make me fit in with the arts and dance world but rather make me stand out as my artistic voice, artistic intent and aesthetic.

Dancers, from left, Aphelele Khumalo, Zandile Tjapha, Phumzile Zondo and Mary Baledi Aphane. PICTURES: VAL ADAMSON

Which was your first dance production that you choreographed and how has that experience informed your work?

Abakhwetha (the Initiates) was my first work. It had been commissioned by the Jomba Contemporary Dance Festival and FNB Vita.

It inspired a method of working rooted in my cultural and socio-political background. It inspired the birth of a language and a practice that I can’t box to “contemporary dance”. It is far bigger than that “box”. It evolves and shifts with current affairs but is forever rooted in my quest for truth and justice.

Working on Ndoni - how was the experience?

It is the first time that the Playhouse commissioned me to create a piece. We are trying to learn from each other while carving a working method that will benefit many. I’m also excited that I have succeeded in casting a group of young dynamic and multi-skilled performers whose individual stories inspire me.

The cast features the multi-talented poet, guitarist, songstress and performing artist Phumzile Zondo; Simthandile Nombuso Nomthandazo Mtolo whose sensational jazz artistry and vocal abilities also creatively layers the soundscape of this work. Mary Boledi Aphane and Busiswa Busie Tshapha lead this dynamic ensembles’ dance segments while also exposing their hidden skills as vocalists and creative storytellers.

What story are you telling on Ndoni?

Ndoni does not follow a story - as not all dance works are about stories and story lines.

It is inspired by the varied journeys of the women warriors whose courageous love for life prompts them to step out of the confines of their rural homes in search of the means to put bread on the table. It is inspired by testimonials and stories of what inspires KZN’s black women’s rural to urban migration in the quest of a better and liberated life.

Why is the Sawaf the best platform to premiere Ndoni?

It is meant to highlight the plight of the South African women; the challenges they are facing, the triumphs they deserve to be celebrated for and their being and contribution towards the different parts of the society that we are.

Ndoni highlights and questions our engagement with the women who not only contribute a large part of the economy but also are responsible for the many positive things that we are. It steers a dialogue about these women, about ourselves and our collective amnesia about “these women” whose names and stories we sometimes choose to forget.

What do you hope we take from Ndoni?

The need to engage more in the fight for socio-political including the prejudice and the injustices faced by the many women.

Ndoni runs at the Playhouse Company’s Loft Theatre until August 11.