The Market Theatre Laboratory Presents Umsebenzi, a Theatre Think Tank programme

By CityLife Arts Writer

The Market Theatre Laboratory presents The Theatre Think Tank, a hybrid digital and live programme of four events to be held in 2021. The Theatre Think Tank is aimed at stimulating public discourse about contemporary practices, challenges and innovations in the arts, bringing together a diversity of practitioners from academic, professional and community contexts. It is designed to gather, organise and archive the wealth of knowledge enacted and embodied by artists working with and through performance, in ways that make this knowledge accessible, particularly to young people studying theatre, performance, and other arts-related fields.

The first think tank event, Umsebenzi, will take place live on 27 May @19h00 at the Ramolao Makhene Theatre, featuring two cutting-edge artists of international acclaim, Nhlanhla Mahlangu and Albert Ibokwe Khoza. Umsebenzi – ritual, work, performance, purpose – is not new to many black South Africans; and in the performance arts, umsebenzi takes old strategies and turns them into new performance possibilities. These two interdisciplinary performers, who make art in multiple forms, will present what umsebenzi means for their own work, using words that fit their tongue and performance processes. This offers us an opportunity to name black practices of performance in ways that both deepen and deeply reflect us.

Each artist will present a short performance, as a way of coming into conversation with their performance practices. They perform, as an invitation for participation, re-defining their own practices as ritual, work, performance, and purpose. Abasebenzi bona, abahlelaumsebenziwabo. A conversation concludes the event, with an invitation for the audience to participate in thinking together about umsebenzi in ritual performance.

This Theatre Think Tank event is curated by performance artist and provocateur, Nondumiso Lwazi Msimanga. She is known for her public arts activism as co-creator of SA’s Dirty Laundry and performances in public spaces. Nondumiso is also a performance and cultural writer and currently a PhD student at UCT. Albert Ibokwe Khoza is an internationally acclaimed performance artist who continuously reveals and projects the state of mind of a loner individual who is a gay man and a Sangoma. Through her/his sexuality and traditional practice, she/he expresses her/his thoughts by moving between different artistic mediums to outline social ills. Nhlanhla Mahlangu is an exceptional vocalist, choreographer, composer, theatre-maker, dancer and educator, a generous interdisciplinary collaborator who excels at conjuring original, complex, and contemporary work rooted in traditional forms.

A digital version of this live event will be available on the Market Theatre Laboratory’s social media platforms and website.

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