Rhythm Colour
Rhythm Colour. Photograph by John Hogg.

On Youth Day, Thursday June 16 2016, Vuyani dancers will perform Gregory Maqoma’s landmark work Rhythm Colour at the Apartheid Museum, and at the Soweto Theatre.

In bringing Rhythm Colour Soweto Theatre and Apartheid Museum, the dynamic collaboration with the museum continues Vuyani’s practice of bringing dance into unconventional spaces to spark discourse using the arts as a conduit.

The performances at the Soweto Theatre will take the story of the student protests right back to the heart of their origin, and promise to be a deeply moving experience. The Apartheid Museum recently began hosting debates and forums around important dates in the country’s history: discussing South African identity during Heritage Month, and the disconnect between idealism and reality during Freedom Month.

The Youth Day afternoon forum is titled ‘Let’s Talk!’ and offers a platform for frank debate for the youth, by the youth. Wayde Davy, deputy director of the Apartheid Museum (which turns 15 this year) comments, ‘The youth is the most important demographic of our society. They are future leaders, future consumers, future entrepreneurs, future parents, future writers, future academics, future sporting stars … and more.’

Rhythm Colour
Rhythm Colour. Photograph by John Hogg.

‘Yet the youth are often excluded from public debate that directly affects their present and future lives. This is why, during this Youth Day forum, we will be placing young people at the heart of social and political debate,’ she explains. ‘We will tackle a range of topics, from bullying, sexual violence, gangsterism, drugs, leadership, sexuality, cultural identity and inter-racial friendships to the world of books and music. The world needs to hear their voices now!’

This probing discussion will be followed by a truncated performance of Rhythm Colour by Vuyani Dance Theatre dancers. Gauteng audiences can also experience this stirring work at the Soweto Theatre during the week marking 40 years since the youth uprising. Rhythm Colour, which was created in 2002 for the National Arts Festival as Maqoma’s Standard Bank Young Artist commission, poignantly conjures the mood surrounding the iconic image of that fateful day: Sam Nzima’s photo of a dying Hector Pieterson, being carried through the streets of Soweto by Mbuyisa Makhubu.

“The retaliation, the chaos, the confusion, the lack of trust in the system, the finger-pointing, the fires erupting… all of these elements are part of Rhythm Colour, and the museum-curated political content will give context to the ideas and allow the dancers to interpret them and bring them to life. And to have a season at Soweto Theatre, marking such an important event in our history, is about restoring the dignity of those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.” – Gregory Maqoma, Vuyani Dance Theatre Executive Creative Director.

Maqoma believes that juxtaposing the historical reality of the museum’s exhibits with the metaphor-driven nature of the dance performance in a single space will add richness and dimension to the experience, particularly for young people. ‘We hope it will bring us back to today where, 40 years on, we ask: What has changed? Though the legacy of apartheid cannot be erased, we have a responsibility as citizens to reflect on the common vision held by the youth of ‘76: to eradicate all injustice.’

Rhythm Colour
Rhythm Colour. Photograph by John Hogg.

Over the 14 years since Rhythm Colour premiered in Grahamstown, it has been performed by some 50 dancers and remains an integral part of the Vuyani repertoire and legacy. The work was previously staged at the Apartheid Museum ten years ago ‘and was a major hit,’ says Davy, marking the start of a long-standing and fruitful collaboration between the two cultural entities. ‘The Apartheid Museum has always acknowledged the role of the arts and has looked to this important sector to bring the museum story alive – and draw in new audiences who previously may not have been inclined to visit a museum,’ she adds.

The ‘Let’s Talk!’ Youth Day Forum at the Apartheid Museum will take place on Thursday, June 16 2016, from 12:00 to 14:00. It will be followed by a 45-minute performance of Rhythm Colour by Vuyani Dance Theatre from 14:30. The event is open to the public and the youth will get complimentary entrance to the museum.

Visit www.vuyani.co.za or Apartheid Museum for more information. To book for the Soweto Theatre performances from June 15 to 19, visit Soweto Theatre.

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