Dance icon Gregory Maqoma to make his ‘Exit’ at 50

Published Jun 7, 2023


Johannesburg - Award-winning dancer and choreographer Gregory Maqoma will mark his impending golden jubilee birthday (50 years) on October 16, 2023, with a piece that is especially meaningful to him as a way of honouring his contributions to the arts community locally and beyond.

The Market Theatre will host a season of Exit/Exist from June 22-25, and the National Arts Festival will host it from June 27-28.

Maqoma will retire from dancing after this performance and complete his present projects.

Maqoma has been a change agent in the arts industry for 50 years, breaking new ground, dispelling prejudice and speaking out against injustices in the field.

Gregory has made the world aware of characters and plots that have captured the spirit of history and are still relevant today through his acclaimed storytelling.

Exit/Exist still has meaning for South Africa today as we navigate the important national conversation around land. It considers and investigates the memory and legacy of Maqoma's ancestor, Chief Jongumsobomvu Maqoma, one of the most renowned Xhosa leaders, who was born in 1798, imprisoned when he demanded that the English colonisers release Xhosa land, and died on Robben Island in 1873.

The central theme of this work is memory, which rephrases the ideas of being and merely existing for the sake of existence. This performance pauses, looks back, and rewinds the tape to the times when the South African tapestry was about the clash of biographies.

Dance Umbrella 2012.Prog_02.The Market Theatre.17 February 2012.'Exit/Exist' concept and choreography by Gregory Maqoma and Vuyani Dance Theatre.Music performed by Complete - Bubele Mgele, Linda thobela,Happy Motha and Bonginkosi Zulu withguitarist Giuliano Modarelli.Photograph: John Hogg/Dance Umbrella.Photograph by John Hogg.

It is “a focus on how we use the visual element to tell this story while supporting the musicality are moves we made on purpose in the hopes that they will capture the mood of the era”.

Chief Maqoma, who lived a life of advocacy, struggle and longing for independence, is to us not only an iconic character of Xhosa country but also a figure of historical transformation. He was the custodian of a people's movement that paved the way for that emancipation.

Under the supervision of James Ngcobo, Maqoma creates the choreography for Exit/Exist while being joined on stage by four South African singers as well as guitarist Giuliano Modarelli. These performers all contribute to the story's telling through their mellow vocal harmonies. Gregory's solo performance is sustained by the musical collaboration of Simphiwe Dana, Giuliano Modarelli, and IComplete. David Tlale transforms ordinary costumes into works of art that enhance the narration of the tale Maqoma is narrating.

Maqoma said: "The return of Exit/Exist at the Market Theatre, where it was first premiered in 2012, is not only befitting to the extraordinary journey I have taken so far, but also marks 150 years since the passing of my ancestor, Chief Maqoma. The issue of land, which is emphasised in the work, is a trail of human misery and degradation, loss and hope.“

Maqoma, who is retiring from dancing, thinks that his lasting contribution to South Africa's history will be his ability to convey innovative stories that serve as social commentary. It has been 50 years of firsts, 50 years of education, 50 years of suffering and annoyance, and most significantly, 50 years that Gregory Vuyani Maqoma has been alive.

The Market Theatre, National Arts Festival, and Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture are partners in Exit/Exist's return to Johannesburg and Makhanda, which is being presented by Vuyani Dance Theatre.

The Star

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