Gregory Maqoma Looks to the Past To Create the Present in his New York Premiere,“Exit/Exist”
651ARTS Presents South African Choreographer Gregory Maqoma at the Kumble Theater
Exit/Exist at the Kumble Theater
Flatbush between Dekalb and Willoughby, Brooklyn
November 1-2 @ 7:30pm-presented by 651ARTS
Choreography and performance: Gregory Maqoma
Music: Performed live by Complete
**For a special conversation about 'process' with Bill T. Jones and Gregory Maqoma, see "History, Memory, and the Creative Process" at National Black Theatre in partnership 651ARTS this October 29th @ 7pm.
In his evening length solo Exit/Exist, South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma ruminates on his ancestral past to reconcile it with his contemporary sense of self. This study of past and present is framed by a focus on his forefather, Chief Maqoma, who fought to maintain the traditions of the Xhosa people in the face of 19th century colonial dispossession. Much of Maqoma’s work with his company Vuyani Dance Theatre (not often seen in the States) is about the melding of disparate worlds: past and present; African and European; the individual and the community.
Gregory Maqoma Photo © John Hogg
“I have allowed my body over the years to be a moving museum that collects and curates what is necessary, like a memory box,” Maqoma explains. Even with a broad a range of influences--from his training with Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker to his traditional South African movement to growing up amidst the pop culture reigns of Prince and Michael Jackson--each piece of Maqoma’s choreography materializes organically. “I am not even aware of the degree of consciousness with the movement decisions that mold all of my experiences. When I am in creation, all these facets communicate together and create an aesthetic which has become my style.”
For Exit/Exist, the preparation began last year when Maqoma was asked to present a work for the centenary celebration of the African National Congress. He started with the questions he had about the struggle of the African people’s liberation in the last 100 years and what that meant to him as a present-day dance artist. He realized the story Chief Maqoma, a warrior who was mysteriously imprisoned and later died under questionable circumstances, was one not widely told.
To illuminate the life of this courageous figure, Maqoma, acting as both choreographer and cultural anthropologist, started with the site of Chief Maqoma’s death in the Eastern Cape. He reached out to present-day elders of the Xhosa community to discover how the tumultuous history of colonization affected their quest for liberation. Maqoma’s firsthand knowledge and inside-out approach to research allowed him to remain objective while reflecting on the process of assimilation into Xhosa culture. As he began to craft movement, Maqoma emphasized this objectivity offered him a solid foundation to make the most “creative piece of art” possible.
The performances at the Kumble Theater in Brooklyn, presented by 651Arts, will serve as the New York premiere of Exit/Exist. Maqoma notes the importance of displaying his work to audiences outside of South Africa and views this solo as an effort to tell the story of a culture he feels akin to, while highlighting relational threads of displacement and heritage. “It’s an opportunity for all who care about dialogue and breaking cultural barriers to have a moment of discussion.”
Maqoma admits that cultural identity is an overarching theme in many of his dance works, and hopes it illuminates similarities rather than differences among his audiences. “I acknowledge that there is no singular identity to strive for, but personal identity is important and that identity is what I represent.”
Personal identity is something Maqoma cannot ignore; he has found that by telling his own version of the story, he contributes to a shared experience—with an audience, a cultural context, and a history that has yet to exist. “History and culture are very much part of who we are. We are building new and exciting histories that are about our differences, but also about our common interest of wanting a better place for all."
Click, 651ARTS and to find out more about Gregory Maqoma and the Vuyani Dance Theatre ,click Mapp International