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A virtual spread: What to see at this year’s MBMS online festival

The world-first performing arts festival on a phone, My Body My Space 2021 (MBMS21), is officially live.

From photo exhibitions and solo performances, to award-winning theatre productions reimagined for the online realm, MBMS21 has an extraordinary amount of work to watch and engage with this year, all available on your phone. To help get you started, we’ve put together a list of the MBMS21 offerings that we think you can’t afford to miss, along with the text prompts you’ll need to view each of them. Give them a read below, and don’t forget to WhatsApp “Hi” to 060 011 0444 to start exploring.

1. Look back in delight: Four years of My Body My Space in Photographs – Christo Doherty

Whether you’re new to MBMS or you’re a long-time fan of the festival, it’s well-worth giving Christo Doherty’s multimedia exhibition a view. In Look back in delight, Doherty, who’s been photographing the past four years of MBMS in Emakhazeni, sifts through his visual archive to present a retrospective account of the range and scope of the festival and its responsive, site-specific works over the years. Photographs for each performance are displayed in short video format, along with audio commentary by the relevant artist or collaborator. The exhibition ultimately serves as a brilliant example of past and present iterations of the festival, merging its contemporary platform with work from previous years in order to provide a rich and comprehensive account of MBMS. Whatsapp prompt: ‘Photos’

  • My Body My Space Public Performance Dance Art festival on your phone Whatsapp
  • The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative FATC Angel Project fundraising campaign donations
  • The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative FATC Angel Project fundraising campaign donations
  • The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative FATC Angel Project fundraising campaign donations
  • My Body My Space Public Performance Dance Art festival on your phone Whatsapp
  • My Body My Space Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative FATC
  • My Body My Space Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative FATC
  • My Body My Space Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative FATC
  • The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative FATC Angel Project fundraising campaign donations
  • The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative FATC Angel Project fundraising campaign donations
  • The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative FATC Angel Project fundraising campaign donations
  • The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative FATC Angel Project fundraising campaign donations
  • My Body My Space online WhatsApp dance festival Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative
  • My Body My Space online WhatsApp dance festival Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative
  • My Body My Space online WhatsApp dance festival Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative
  • My Body My Space online WhatsApp dance festival Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative
  • My Body My Space online WhatsApp dance festival Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative
  • My Body My Space online WhatsApp dance festival Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative
  • My Body My Space online WhatsApp dance festival Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative
  • My Body My Space online WhatsApp dance festival Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative
  • My Body My Space online WhatsApp dance festival Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative

2. Dark Cell: Breathe – Themba Mbuli & Louise Westerhout

Earlier this year, the South African arts suffered a profound loss with the untimely passing of dancer and choreographer Themba Mbuli. Dark Cell: Breathe exists as an example of the extraordinary talent of Mbuli, while also serving as a memory to the life and work of the inimitable dancer. Here, Mbuli works with mental health specialist Louise Westerhout to reimagine his iconic Dark Cell performance as a series of short ‘notes’. Audio of a patient and therapist in conversation plays over footage of Mbuli performing under a single spotlight. The resultant interplay between interiority and physicality makes for a compelling piece of theatre, and is high up on Creative Feel’s list of shows to watch at this year’s festival. Whatsapp prompt: ‘Themba’

A still from ‘Dark Cell – Breathe’ by Themba Mbuli

3. Buchitheka Bugayiwe || Thokola Themba – Cebolenkosi Zuma & Shane Cooper

The result of likeminded artists coming together to explore indigenous knowledge systems and healing through art, Buchitheka Bugayiwe || Thokola Themba sees musician Shane Cooper collaborating with The Dancing Herbalist in a captivating visual and musical performance. Sound and music, as well as the body in motion, take turns in leading the narrative and tone of the work, weaving together an abstract, yet visceral portrayal of the contemporary condition of the individual during a global health pandemic, and various possible ways of healing. Whatsapp prompt: ‘Collective’

A still from ‘Buchitheka Bugayiwe, Thokola Themba’ by Cebolenkosi Zuma & Shane Cooper

4. LEAP – FATC’s Local Education in Arts Programme

Community-based arts are central to Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative (FATC) and the MBMS festival. This year, despite not taking place physically in Emakhazeni, the online festival still hosts the Local Education in Arts Programme – or LEAP for short – which sees a series of short works by four of the groups who were able to gather for a limited period in November of 2020, during the country’s level 1 lockdown restrictions, in order to perform and record. The resultant works range from ideas of togetherness to everyday lived realities under lockdown, and are short and sweet enough to view on the go, or over a cup of coffee. Check out all four by using the Whatsapp prompt: ‘Leap’  

A still from ‘Restricted’ by Tankiso Pheko, Sandile Masina & Siphiwe Xhaba performed as part of the LEAP programme

5. Plunger O Plunger O Plunger – Oupa Sibeko

The notion of knowledge production, and also how knowledge is put to use, are explored in this short, sharp, and wry performance art piece by Oupa Sibeko. Equipped with nothing but an ordinary bathroom plunger, Sibeko begins to experiment with the sound, shape, and function of the object in an attempt to engage in the ‘act of cleansing the mind, the body, and the ground in the process of making art as art’. Sibeko’s performance is simple and effective, and can be seen as a useful example of the kind of intriguing and exciting theatre we’re seeing come out of a performing arts industry under lockdown. Give Sibeko’s work a watch by using the Whatsapp prompt: ‘Oupa’   

A still from ‘Plunger O Plunger O Plunger’ by Oupa Sibeko

6. Prayer Room – Lorin Sookool

Another longer piece that’s well-worth the watch is dancer and performing artist Lorin Sookool’s Prayer Room. Following Sookool’s two-month correspondence with three senior citizens in Durban during South Africa’s national lockdown, Prayer Room is a choreographed response to these conversations, and the various conditions and realities of each of these women. The performance takes place in a church, amidst the disused pews. Light, silence, and movement are three of the simple, yet highly effective tools employed by Sookool in varying degrees across her 11 minute performance, all captured by videographer Tania Vossgatter. Watch the trailer, and get the link to the full performance, with the Whatsapp prompt: ‘Lorin’

A still from ‘Prayer Room’ by Lorin Sookool
A still from ‘Prayer Room’ by Lorin Sookool

7. Glare – Smangaliso Ngwenya

Smangaliso Ngwenya’s Glare takes place in an ordinary stairwell and transforms the scene, through considered choreography and videography alike, into a portentous and engaging site of physical performance. Like many of this year’s online performances, Glare embraces technology and incorporates it into the performance, as opposed to simply creating a dance piece to be filmed and posted online. As such, scenes including close crops of the performer’s hands, or fixed shots of a figure emerging from the bottom of the stairs, become important narrative and chorographical moments in their own right, as well as allowing for distinctive and varied performances from a single character. View the trailer and get the link to the full performance by using the Whatsapp prompt: ‘Glare’

A still from ‘Glare’ by Smangaliso Ngwenya

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