Photo courtesy of Wezile Mgibe

Wezile Mgibe – Healing with the art of dance

Movement in Africa has always had a deep meaning, and this has influenced me to study the art of movement.

Movement artist Wezile Mgibe employs modern visual performance and traditional ritual practice in dance–focused on healing. Wezile explains in his artist statement that “…Africans are interrogating some parts of ourselves with which we have been at war.” An interrogation of the kinetics of place, site and culture.

Wezile further explains that being present in a space is something that he fully exercises; this stems from the limits and segregation that his and many others’ parents experienced during apartheid. “I always use the concept of black love and healing as a dialogue in my practice, allowing the process to be an open discussion and a journey of self-discovery through sharing our stories among one another as encouragement.”

A personal interest lay in creating knowledge that provides young black people with the skills to better themselves. This is expanded upon by stating, “I fully allow my black people to direct me to an open expanse, and I reveal ways in which we lost our souls, often in spontaneous and unexpected ways.” Working with Black Love is done to delineate ways of confronting the self in sometimes difficult situations and to find ways to self-forgiveness.

“I have always been fascinated by how things have come into existence, as well as motivations behind certain movements, reactions and behaviours, and how these become symbols of celebration or struggle in Africa.” Wezile feels that black people continuously perform their life experiences “which often involves their reaction to personal traumatic and post-traumatic events”. Raised in a Christian house hold the specific songs of this context in relation to celebration, movement and hope were ingrained in his mind from a young age. When faced with challenges, Wezile turns back to the learnt songs and quotes from childhood to heal.

I believe, despite over twenty years of ‘change’ and ‘transformation’, we are still fighting, against large structures such as the System, the Oppressors and Alienation from Land. It is clear that the ‘fighting’ narrative was deeply ingrained into our lives, while other narratives such as ‘Black Love’ are more alien to us.

Wezile Mgibe was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and uses movement improvisation methods as a means of encouraging social change. He has training in contemporary dance, jazz and afro fusion as well as a background in musical theatre. Further Wezile is interested in collaborative experimental practice within the public space. He is a recent recipient of a David Koloane Award (2019).

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