Chuma dares to dream

● Young Artist award-win­ner ‘sleeps on it’ be­fore pro­duc­ing in­spi­ra­tional the­atre

The Herald (South Africa) - - LEISURE - Devon Koen [email protected]­soblack­star.co.za

IN­TENSELY evoca­tive and some­what un­ortho­dox in her ap­proach to the arts, this year’s Stan­dard Bank Young Artist Award (SBYAA) win­ner for Per­for­mance Art, Chuma Sopotela, says it is in her dreams where she finds in­spi­ra­tion and motivation to do the things she does.

“I love sleep­ing par­tic­u­larly be­cause I want to dream, so I lit­er­ally sleep so that I can dream, so that I can get my next project.

“Or I will see some­thing, be in­spired by it and sleep with it [on my mind] and think about what I want to do with it. Then I go to sleep and I dream and then I get my an­swer,” Sopotela said.

The multi award-win­ning ac­tress, di­rec­tor and chore­og­ra­pher, born and raised in Khayelit­sha, Cape Town, said she ded­i­cates her per­for­mance work to the place where she is per­form­ing.

“I re­ally love ded­i­cat­ing my work to a par­tic­u­lar place so I love mak­ing work about the place [and] that is what I am do­ing – I am mak­ing a work about Gra­ham­stown and also par­tic­u­larly about the time of the fes­ti­val and what is there be­fore and af­ter,” she said.

Pas­sion­ate about cre­ative ac­tivism, Sopotela uses her tal­ent as a per­for­mance artist to ed­u­cate and trans­gress the bound­aries between per­ceived knowl­edge and in­dige­nous knowl­edge.

“Art is the fa­cil­i­ta­tion of knowl­edge but it also cre­ates new knowl­edge and for me that is very im­por­tant.

“We say we have in­dige­nous knowl­edge but we do not live in that time, so it is up to what we do with art that we bring that in­dige­nous knowl­edge to our so­ci­ety now and cre­ate new knowl­edge,” she said.

Ac­tively vo­cal about the in­flu­ence of pol­i­tics and the ut­ter­ances of politi­cians, Sopotela said it was im­por­tant for artists to bring about change with the hope of in­flu­enc­ing peo­ple’s per­cep­tions.

“With my per­for­mance art work it is about chang­ing per­cep­tions and per­spec­tives.

“Politi­cians mess with our minds, [they] make us be­lieve cer­tain peo­ple are bad and there­fore there are wars in the world be­cause this is what they are feed­ing us.

“As long as we make peo­ple aware of these kinds of ma­nip­u­la­tions, I think then we will be bet­ter at mak­ing de­ci­sions about who is good and who is bad and what is good and what is bad and what is right and wrong,” Sopotela said.

The work­ing ti­tle of her per­for­mance at this year’s Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val, Ind­lu­lamthi (The ones who are taller than the trees), will both be a show­piece look­ing at the cur­rent so­cio-po­lit­i­cal cli­mate in South Africa through the eyes of chil­dren, while high­light­ing the Pales­tinian sit­u­a­tion.

“[A] few years ago [when] I was here, I de­cided I would love to work with the kids – the street per­form­ers who we see dur­ing the fes­ti­val – so I de­cided that a long time ago, even be­fore the Stan­dard Bank award, to work with them,” she said.

Sopotela will also be work­ing with a fel­low per­former from Pales­tine, Ahmed Tobasi, as part of the per­for­mance has to do with the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in Pales­tine.

“I am not an all-know­ing hu­man be­ing but what I try to do is trig­ger things that we know al­ready and then pull them up to the sur­face.”

Work­ing closely with the con­cept of the body and the way peo­ple see each other, Sopotela said it was im­por­tant for peo­ple to think about the rea­sons why they see oth­ers in cer­tain ways.

“My work [is also] about the body and how we see each other, which glance are we us­ing, what frames – how are we fram­ing what we look at and are we aware of these frames that we cre­ate, so we can un­der­stand why we think about other peo­ple that way,” Sopotela said.

On be­ing named one of this year’s SBYAA win­ners, Sopotela said the award was a high­light in her ca­reer and ce­mented the idea that peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ated and trusted her work as a per­for­mance artist.

Among her many ac­co­lades, Sopotela won Kanna and Fleur du Cap best ac­tress awards for her role in Lara Foot’s Ka­roo Moose. She was also nom­i­nated for a Naledi Best Ac­tress award in 2008 and re­ceived five award nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing the Mon­treal English the­atre awards for her per­for­mance in Wait­ing for the Bar­bar­ians, di­rected by in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed Alexan­dre Marine.

Sopotela was a win­ner at the 2008 Spier Con­tem­po­rary Awards, as well as a 2017 Mal­colm McLaren Award win­ner for her re­cent col­lab­o­ra­tion with Wa Le­hulere on his Per­forma 17 Bi­en­nial com­mis­sion, I Cut My Skin to Lib­er­ate the Splin­ter.

● Catch Ind­lu­lamthi on Thurs­day and Fri­day from 5pm to 7pm.

Not in Gra­ham­stown? You can still read The Her­ald Spot­light con­tent on the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val on­line at The Her­ald web­site where it is avail­able, free of charge, for reg­is­tered users. Visit www.her­aldlive.co.za for all the fes­ti­val news and re­views.

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