By Edward Tsumele
Celebrated dancer and choreographer Gaby Saranouffi; has just completed a two week long workshop called #MOI on gender based violence that saw her collaborate with the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative in which young participants, mostly female dancers took part. Supported by Goethe-institut’s Goethe Project Space (GPS), the workshop culminated in a discussion on gender based violence over the weekend, August 1, 2020.
The weekend’s roundtable discussion is focused on “Gender Based Violence ” specifically zeroing in on Women abuse drawing from the subject matter of the #MOI piece.
The panelists comprised of Tammy Ballantyne Webber as moderator (dance writer, and art activist, Lisa Wilson (Senior academic in Dance – University of Cape Town), Lebogang Moemisi (Founder of Sister’s Keeper Movement- Soweto) and #MOI GPS FATC Students Workshop participants and Saranouffi (Dancer, choreographer – #MOI Concept developer and project leader).
These workshops will also lead to a solo performance by Saranouffi on August 9, at 7pm. The performance will be viewed digitally as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Her performance will be preceded by a solo dance shows by the participants in the workshop on August 6 to August 9, which will also be watched virtually at 7pm. Saranouffi who was born in Madagascar but is now based in South Africa, spoke to Citylife/Arts Editor Edward Tsumele about the #MOI piece as well as the workshops at the weekend.
ET: The piece deals with a very important issue of Women abuse, which unfortunately is an ongoing pandemic in this country, and unfortunately also as I gather in Madagascar where you hail from. Tell us what informed this piece?
GS: The dance piece was created to support the victims of violence and abuse perpetuated against women and children, and highlight the scourge of rape and femicide that is engulfing our society. Also empower women to voice out/speak up and stand up for themselves to fight against this by all means possible and also utilize creative artistic expression to create public awareness, discourse and action.
As an artistic tool #Moi is a pictorial dance piece that projects a journey of life changing of a woman; from showing the beauty, the strength of woman to the devastated state of mind, soul spirit and body that is left from the abuse and how the woman is able to stand up again and continue with life.
ET: How bad is Women abuse in Madagascar?
GS: I started this creation in 2013 when women abuse in Madagascar was rising at a very scary rate, of which I found that as a female artist as well as a citizen of the country, I needed to voice the abuse through my art of dance. I believed that the most powerful way to tackle the subject matter was through visual performing art, which could be used as an instrument for encouraging people stand up and take seriously this social scourge.
ET: The workshops on women Abuse that you are co-hosting with the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative has been going on for two weeks now with young participants. How have the workshops been received so far?
GS: So far, the workshops were well received by the participants and are going very well. I am happy to be able to share and develop the young dancers through this workshop. With one week experience with them, I have seen growth in how they think and develop the tools that I gave them to do, and also I am impressed with the way they are able to absorb information like a sponge.
We have both male and female participants in the workshops of which it makes it more interesting with the subject matter of the piece #MOI.
It is exciting and challenging to hold workshops especially dance, virtually and digitally, outside the human physical interaction. The immediate challenges is that the participants are at their homes this bringing in the issue of space. Then come the technical challenges such as network problems, load shedding, poor signal. Sometimes during a session, a participant or myself would be kicked out of the session due to bad signal. There is also issues of time delay which has a consequence especially when doing movement sessions, this affecting movement and audio. However, the interesting thing is that, I have found an interesting way of dealing with all these minor daily challenges. What is important for me is that every day, we keep on moving and progressing forward.
Thanks to the Goethe-Institut South Africa through their program GPS (Goethe-Institut Project Space) for giving us a chance to realize such project within this pandemic.
ET: If anything what can we learn about the trauma and impact of Women abuse on society from the workshops and perhaps what is possibly coming out especially from participants that may have witnessed this scourge in their midst.
GS: I would say, trauma is not an easy thing to deal with but my artistic approach within this piece/project is that when you dance it, when you express your pain through dancing and allowing yourself to penetrate that space that sometimes people are afraid to go (emotionally) as it brings painful memories, taking that steps for me it’s a beginning of healing. During the workshops, we do lots of talking, reflection, analyzing and movement exploration within the abuse subject and how the participants can voice their own experiences, their own story as a person that lives in our society that is facing this abuse on our daily life, especially during this lockdown period where by the rate of abuse has escalated drastically.
The participants of the workshops have different understanding on how they relate to the subject matter of abuse, these shall be seen on their solo performances online as outcomes of the workshops from the 6th to 8th of August 2020 and on women’s day the 9th of August 2020, I will perform my solo Dance piece “MOI”. You can view the performances and the outcomes of the workshops on our social media platforms, Facebook: Gaby Saranouffi, Itrotra Art X Connection – Digital Platform, The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative on the mentioned dates @ 7:00PM.
ET: Finally what is your reaction to the Ovation Award that your other production with Moeketsi has won, especially because this award in many respects depends on audience reception of the work?
GS: We are grateful for the recognition of our work with Moeketsi Koena for the 2020 Ovation Award. Moeketsi and I come a very long way in the art industry and we have over the years developed and nurtured many artists and established strong artistic networks within the SADC region, more especially between Madagascar and South Africa. With this recognition, we would continue to be encouraged to work hard in the advancement of the arts in our countries, while at the same time mapping our unique style within the performing art landscape.