Zakes Mda’s Cion inspired Gregory Maqoma’s new work.
Maqoma brought author Zakes Mda’s mourner, Toloki, to life on stage in dance piece, Cion: Requiem of Ravel’s Bolero. 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.
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.
In Gregory Maqoma’s dance production, Cion, the internationally acclaimed award-winning dancer-choreographer drew inspiration from the multifaceted character of Toloki, whom is embodied in a solo and and laer joined on stage by eight gifted dancers from the Vuyani stable. Maqoma set the character against the dark cloud of his country of birth and used 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 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 serves as a requiem to the departed souls while offering an opportunity to heal.
“Vuyani Dance Theatre is grateful to the Market Theatre, the National Lottery Commission and BASA for assisting in the realization of this piece at a very volatile time in the country’s politics.” says Siya Dokoda, the Marketing Manager at Vuyani Dance Theatre.