NAF2019 Review: Going Back to the Truth of Space


What do you get when you combine the eclectic sounds of a jazz pianist, the lithe movement of one of South Africa’s most prolific black dancers and the elegance of a grand piano? In what was a first in the history of the Standard Bank Young Artist Awards, 2019 winner in the Dance category, Kitty Phetla collaborated with 2015 winner in the Music category for this new work commissioned for the 2019 National Arts Festival in Makhanda.

The piece titled Going Back to the Truth of Space is enveloped in the ritual institution of ngoma, once the term for drumming, music, singing, dancing, and the complex ceremonies of healing. Makhathini provided the soundtrack to the work through his piano playing, as well as in his thoughts which were narrated by Phetla. What was a truly amazing twist to the show was that in the final performance, Phetla was dancing to the soundtrack of Makhathini’s hauntingly beautiful score. As something that could have detracted from the concept of having Makhathini playing live, this, however, allowed the audience to experience what could be considered a brand new show. With the piano still on stage even though Makhathini is not playing live, you get a sense of the piano symbolizing the memories of the past forefathers to whom Phetla pays homage in this dance piece.

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The work proves how Phetla has sustained a career as long and prolific as hers and further reminds us of what she is truly capable of not only as a dancer but a choreographer too dancing alone for 30 minutes. It would be a joy to see this work make an appearance again. In the meantime, we look forward to seeing Kitty’s new work titled Wakanda at Joburg Ballet from 5 to 14 July 2019.

Kitty Phetla in Going Back to the Truth of Space at the National Arts Festival (Photo Credit: Mark Wessels)

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