Nelisiwe Xaba [Soweto]

Plasticization + They Look at Me and That's All They Think

Plasticization + They Look at Me and That's All They Think
Plasticization + They Look at Me and That's All They Think

05.09 – 06.09.2008

Voyeurism and clichés

Nelisiwe Xaba was born in Soweto in South Africa and studied dance in Johannesburg and London. She danced in productions by her compatriot Robyn Orlin and travelled all over Africa, the United States and Europe. In the past few years she has worked as a choreographer and is teaching a new generation of talented young South African dancers. This season her work will be staged in the Kaaitheater: she will present two short solo dances during the Shuffle # 3 and a new group choreography in March 2009.

Xaba sees her work as a way of exposing the clichéd voyeuristic Western view of the black south and criticises growing capitalist and commercial pressure in her own country. In Plasticization, she wears plastic bags cut into pieces and is almost hidden from view. Plastic is a symbol of over-consumption as well as sterility and hygiene. Plastic covers and protects but also seals off. How do you create intimacy using this unnatural material? And does direct physical contact still have any meaning?

The title of her second solo, They Look at Me and That’s All They Think, refers to the story of Sarah Baartman, who became known as ‘Hottentot Venus’. This South African woman was brought from the Cape to London in 1810 by a British naval doctor and, because of her exceptional physiognomy, was exhibited in England and France as a scientific curiosity. When she died several years later in Paris, the famous zoologist Cuvier made plaster casts of her body. Various body parts were preserved for decades in formalin. It was only in 2002, at the request of the South African president Nelson Mandela and under pressure from a strong campaign by various ngos, that her remains were transported back to South Africa and ceremoniously buried. Sarah Baartman’s story is symbolic of the oppression of African women under the colonial regime and of the West’s voyeuristic view of African countries. Nelisiwe Xaba sees the story as an allegory of her own artistic quest, which took her out of Soweto and into the contemporary Eurocentric art world. Even today western audiences view the bodies of black male and female dancers differently. Xaba exposes the clichés of our exotic voyeurism in a special way.


Plasticization
choreography & dance Nelisiwe Xaba | costumes & props Strangelove | music A. Borodin, J.S. Bach, G. Verdi, W.A. Mozart | light & technique François Blet | tour manager Pethso Vilaisarn

They Look at Me and That’s All They Think
choreography & dance Nelisiwe Xaba  | costumes & props Strangelove | stage direction Carlo Gibson | music Khadja Nin, Dorothy Masuka, Rachelle Ferrell, Suzana Rinaldi | light & technique François Blet | tour manager Pethso Vilaisarn