In the wake of service delivery protests in coloured dominated communities where residents are calling on the government for better services and for a speedy drug intervention programme, Roseline Wilkens’ choreographic work couldn’t come at a more pertinent time. Cry the Beloved Eldos explores the circumstances that have become ingrained in these communities and how they shape the youth. The piece will be presented during Vuyani Dance Theatre’s annual Vuyani Week, a showcase that will take place at Dance Factory in Newtown, opening on Friday 30 November through to Sunday 2 December 2018.
Cry the Beloved Eldos was inspired by a desperate mother, Dereleen James, who penned a letter to then-president Jacob Zuma. In this letter, she and a few other mothers and sisters relayed their stories of family members who had been swallowed by the drug problems in the community. ‘I have withdrawn myself from society, I can no longer cope, I live like a prisoner. My son climbs through the trap door to break into his own home. I’m forced to give him all my money, just so that I can have peace. I keep my purse in my panty and I lock my room door just in case he becomes violent. I wish he can die or for me to have the courage to end my life. I wonder if God will forgive me.’ These words are from an unnamed 67-year-old mother who contributed to the letter.
‘We all grow up with dreams for our lives, but what we fail to realise is that our environment and our communities have their own plans for our lives, which are later forced on the youth,’ says Wilkens. She explores the idea that the overbearing negative narrative of the Eldorado Park environment denies children their true potential. The average age of children experimenting with drugs in South Africa is now at 12 – and decreasing – and it is quite clear that issues such as unstable home environments, family worries, poverty, a lack of support from social groups or communities, a lack of acceptance among peers – perceived or real, and mental health problems like depression need to be dealt with. Many learners report that they have been either offered, sold or given illicit drugs at schools.
In a double bill that will also form part of the Vuyani Week programme, Gregory Maqoma gives hope to these youth with his new work, Rise. He shares with them that they should stop looking for heroes, but rather become the heroes for themselves and for those around them. Maqoma emphasises that young people should never for a second think that they are not needed. Acting like every day is a personal tragedy will not do anything for anyone. We should all start taking advantage of the fact that WE ARE ALIVE! – alive in SUCH an amazing time, where we have GREAT music, GREAT theatre productions, so much creativity and so much technology.
Against the backdrop of Rise, Maqoma and Otto Nhlapo, who is also premiering a new work, have curated a programme of company and students solos entitled Back 2 Back. The solos are personal journeys of identity, cultural relativism and ethnocentrism. The curation of the solos threads the opposing views of society on culture and sets them back-to-back, and will hopefully liberate us from thoughts of prejudice and misogyny. Children hold a baton for the future of our country. The Vuyani Outreach Programme Performance will form a strong part of Vuyani Week and is the perfect way to engage with the youth and, more importantly, to let them tell their stories through dance.