Zakes Mda’s Cion inspires Gregory Maqoma’s new work


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Multi-award winning and internationally celebrated choreographer Gregory Maqoma will premiere Cion, a masterpiece to celebrate Africa Month at the Market Theatre this May.

Maqoma will bring author Zakes Mda’s mourner, Toloki, to life on stage in Cion. Mda attained global renown with Ways of Dying (1995), his seminal first novel that featured the unforgettable character Toloki, a professional mourner at township funerals during South Africa’s transition to democracy.  Mda’s writing is entrenched in African values, ethics and offers a broader view of South Africa as a complex animal with unique cultures.

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In Cion, the follow-up to Ways of Dying, Mda revisits Toloki a decade later. Like the author himself, the character is now living in the United States, where Toloki uncovers the story of runaway slaves who were the ancestors of an impoverished Southern family.

Gregory Maqoma in Joys of Sharing. Wouter Kellerman, Simphiwe Dana and Vuyani Dance Company and directed by Gregory Maqoma.
Lyric Theatre at Gold Reef City.
22 October 2016
Photograph: John Hogg

In Gregory Maqoma’s new dance production, Cion, the internationally acclaimed award-winning dancer-choreographer draws inspiration from the multifaceted character of Toloki, whom he will embody in a solo and be joined on stage by eight gifted dancers from the Vuyani stable. Maqoma sets the character against the dark cloud of his country of birth and uses this as a palette to confront the notion of fear: of existing, of religion, of the self, and of who we have become.

“The world has changed from what we imagined it to be; we are all victims clouded by fear. This work stands against that dark cloud and brings us light and hope that humanity still exists, even in our darkest times”, says Gregory Maqoma, the artistic director of the Vuyani Dance Theatre.

“Death is a universal rite of passage, and the universe of greed, power and religion has led us to be professional mourners who transform the horror of death and the pain of mourning into a narrative without feeling for life,” he adds.

The music in Cion is delivered in stirring fashion by an isicathamiya troupe and the percussive voices of Vuyani dancers, under the musical direction of Xolisile Bongwana and Nhlanhla Mahlangu. Maqoma’s use of Ravel’s Bolero will serve as a requiem to the departed souls while offering an opportunity to heal.

“Vuyani Dance Theatre is grateful to the Market Theatre, National Lottery Commission and Business & Arts of South Africa for assisting in the realization of this piece at a very volatile time in the country’s politics. We are grateful for the continued and unwavering support of media sponsors Creative Feel and Kaya FM” says Siya Dokoda, the marketing manager at Vuyani Dance Theatre.

Performances will run from 25 May to 4 June 2017 at the John Kani Theatre at the Market Theatre complex in Newtown, Johannesburg.

Tickets for all performances of Cion cost R130 at

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