Written by Treyvone Moosa
The arts scene over the last two years have indeed become one of the most difficult industries to occupy, with statistics indicating that the arts will be the slowest to recover from the global Covid-19 pandemic. One especially hard hit group has been the LGBTQI community, a community predominately made up of actors, performers and dancers. News of theatres like the Fugard in Cape Town closing rocked the local art scene and with all other major theatres closed for performances for more than a year many artists are still faced with the incomparable task of survival while their main source of income has been restricted.
One such dancer is ballet and afro performer Llewellyn Mguni, affectionately known to their community as Lulubelle. The classically trained ballerina has been a force within the local dance scene for over a decade. Having toured with the globe from Italy, to London to Germany and Australia and being instrumental in establishing the ballroom scene in Johannesburg it seemed that the sky was the limit for this enigmatic performer, until the global pandemic.
In August 2019 Mguni presented their first solo show titled Resillience at the National Arts festival. The show was described as an introspection into the The crippling pressures of ‘masculinity’ in the dance world as well Mguni dealing with Dealing with the complexities of culture, religion and homophobia. The piece went on to win the Standard Bank Ovation award.
Later on in the year Mnguni was picked up by Kalachnikov gallery. I had my reservations at the young art gallery’s move to represent a performing artist and felt that it was an unorthodox move in the art world. I questioned how main stream art will meet performance art and how the longevity of this seemingly unexplored terrain would be.
My fears were indeed laid to rest as I attended the opening night of the second showcase in Mguni’s resilience series. The gallery is symmetrically placed with of the most captivating images of Mguni in motion. In true Travis Owen style, the images are set in hues reminiscent of the orange sunset and the Santorini blue of the Highveld sky intertwined with deep black and whites that remind me of the greys of Johannesburg
As Mguni enters center stage in white dress clad over black a perfect pair of images cradle her on either side. The sounds of seed hitting the floor vibrate across the room intersected by the sounds of praise to break the melancholic song.
The voice of Aux Alaio fills the room, “My mother’s eyes are like soft clouds scanning the rows of fields searching for Jehovah, fruitlessly”. These words leave me stunned at the perfect description of what the fatigue of resilience can look like to those of us deeply trying to stay afloat in the midst of the pandemic. Mguni’s feet start to tap as the drum becomes more intense and with each beat the transportative melody seems to pulsate through the sinew that is Mguni legs. Floor touches their braids, their braid touches the drum, the drum touches the intentions. There could no better collaboration in sound and dance than these two.
Mguni sheds their white for black and in true form their arms are swaying in an ancient call for support as their legs seem to hold the energy of the room in absolute awe.
We are in submission to the resilience that is Lluwelyn Mguni. When our eyes meet I don’t think I have seen Mguni more intent on creating a journey of exploration. I asked Mguni what resilience means for them, “It looks like a continuation of not judging oneself, it is a journey of kindness and care and a self understanding of who and what you are through a struggle of growth pains. To know that I am shedding the propaganda of my existence and opening the door for new life and self actualization.”
Catch the final showcase of the piece this Saturday at Kalachnikov Gallery, tickets on webtickets.