An empty black stage filled with nothingness but an African drum, which echoes the adrenalin of a fast beating heart, occupies the far left wing of the stage. A crew of black diverse actors serve as paraphernalia for this edutainment dance theatre performance. Scripted and directed by a young black woman, Thando Mbulelo Mbanjwa, I’m HIV and Living is an incredible dance production – packed with bags of talent and contagious movement.
“Hlanganani silwe negciwane…” (Get together and fight HIV) is sung by a trio of angelic voices that belt out the need to fight HIV while living with it and treating it like any other disease. This dance performance reminds young people that “Muntu omusha, vala umlomo uvule amadlebe… uvule amehlo. Lesifo singawe” (young person, close your mouth and open your ears … open your eyes. This disease is after you”).
Black bodies with red ribbons on their hearts stand firmly on the stage. Their heads are accessorised with diverse black hairstyles, which independently tell an art. Their bodies swirl and twirl in the darkness of the black background curtains and black stage. Their throats are also packed with narratives tackling the stigmas around HIV.
From fetching HIV treatment from the hospital to avoiding the abuse of drugs and alcohol, Mbanjwa tackles it all. Fast-paced movements and backflips show the fast-paced spread and rigidity in which HIV attacks the body and vests itself within it. This dance performance does not cease to reiterate the importance of not having a negative attitude towards a positive HIV status.
Mbanjwa successfully narrates how young people can protect themselves from HIV, just like an umbrella protects one from the sun. This performance tells the story of overcoming the fear of testing for your HIV status, through poetry in tongue and poetry in dynamic dance movements. An orchestration of supple muscles and flexible bodies illustrates the endless possibilities of living with this disease.
If there is one important message that any young person of any kind and creed is to take away from this production, it is this: it is worth fathoming the pain of HIV and living with it by treating it in a constructive, positive way. That is how one can positively say:
“I’M HIV AND LIVING!”
By Thandolwethu Gulwa