Unity, freedom and friendship are among the values that Mozambican contemporary dance company Culture Arte aims to celebrate during the centenary birthday month of Nelson Mandela.
Eight intrepid artists kick-started Mandela month with a performance around inner-city Joburg that explored the identities of the African body.
Accompanied by guitarist Jorge Domingos, Panaibra Gabriel Canda dances about today’s African body, a post-colonial entity that has absorbed the ideals of nationalism, modernity, socialism and freedom of expression.
Renowned choreographer Canda said it was a wonderful way to celebrate the history of Mozambique and South Africa through dance this month.
“Mozambique hosted a lot of politicians, and because there was extreme violence from the apartheid regime, and they were really bombing parts of Maputo,” Canda said.
The internationally acclaimed troupe is paying tribute to Madiba’s legacy across the continent and celebrating cultural exchange.
The company was founded 20 years ago and also celebrates its founding anniversary.
“We share a common value, of the freedom and liberation of our region and continent,” Canda noted.
“The work that we are doing is more about the awareness, the identity and freedom of expression where we adopt this value of democracy, friendship and being good neighbours.
“Culture Arte is a huge weapon to celebrate without censorship. We can really show our cultural values and identity, which is what Mandela represents for most of us,” he added.
Mandela had a long-standing connection with Mozambique. He married his third wife, Graça Machel, who hailed from there, on his 80th birthday in 1998.
Their marriage lasted until he passed away in 2013.
Canda said Culture Arte had remained consistent and relevant throughout the years because of the intensive research done on various issues.
“The awareness of our own identity makes our work different. We really have a lot to offer and we research about all these post-colonial issues, colonial legacy and our identity.
“We have a lot of research with people finding themselves identifying themselves with the work we are doing. The work goes beyond simple art,” he added.
Culture Arte provides support for new performances, artistic development and training programmes for dance projects and Southern African artists.
During this month, Mozambique’s first dance company will tour their production Time and Space: The Marrabenta Solos at the National Arts Festival, at East London’s Guild Theatre and at Joburg’s UJ Theatre.
According to Canda, the tour forms part of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia’s winter programme celebrating 20 years in South Africa.
The Marrabenta Solos journey through Mozambique’s complex history, a feature carried in the Marrabenta, a musical form born in the 1950s from a mix of Mozambican and European influences.