Kubili is a combination of two contemporary dance pieces that fuses African rhythms and storytelling. Choreographed by Musa Hlatswayo, they touch on the critical issues that affect black women in South Africa, specifically those living in the KwaZulu-Natal province. Exploring the way in which these women are treated in a predominantly patriarchal society, this is a character-based performance where the dance movement is organic and derived from experience, feelings and the struggle to define oneself.
The first piece looks at patriarchy and touches on the subject of calabash-carrying – when the calabash breaks, a woman is no longer a virgin – which leads to issues surrounding rites of passage for young black women. Paths and boundaries have been created for women, culminating in a culture of silence in which they cannot question what they are taught.
Inspired by the behaviour of various masculinities present in KwaZulu Natal, the second piece reshapes and redefines the ideas of masculinities, negotiating identities in a time where patriarchy seems to be doing even more damage than before. An example of such disrespectful attitudes towards women is the male performer uttering the combined phrases “Dudlu … Dadlaza”, which Zulu men use when they are hissing and whistling at women in the streets. Despite this behaviour being extremely offensive, it’s considered to be a playful interaction by many men.
Another example of patriarchal attitudes present in South African society is when the character of the male pastor chastises mothers, saying: “No child goes out there and surrenders to be killed without the mother’s teachings and permission to open the door and the gate. We need to pray for these mothers.” Thus, even churches in our country blame mothers for letting their children being killed and harmed, yet nothing is said about their fathers.
This is one of the many issues that the performers present in Kubili, stressing to the audience that they need to be addressed. The production present questions based on the way hegemonic masculinities define and treat women, both in churches and the broader socio-political sphere.
This two-part performance will take you by surprise, as it really brings home the issues of patriarchy that are still prevalent in KwaZulu-Natal – and South Africa at large – today.
Watch Kubili (Two) on 7 July at 10pm and again on 8 July at 4pm at PJ’s.
By Sakhile Dube