I woke up feeling like gold this morning, ready to take on the day, deep in anticipation of tonight’s performance. Four days into the festival, and I am buzzing from the excitement of having these extraordinary artists grace Contact with their presence. Each of the performances so far have been enriched with a certain level of fearlessness - the artists’ complete willingness to lay themselves bare to the audience and engage us freely. I cannot put my finger on what power it is they hold over us, but I am happily mesmerised by their ability and passion!
Last night’s performance of And The Girls In Their Sunday Dresses was absolutely phenomenal – I’m still at a loss for words to describe the magnitude of emotion stirred up by the piece. Hlengiwe Lushaba and Lesogo Motsepe were in character from beginning to end. They succeeded in carrying the audience with them every step of the way, in the characters’ individual and combined journeys. Their comedic ability was effortless and they shared a chemistry that drew us as an audience into the world they wanted us to experience with them. I can’t remember the last time I laughed with such honesty during a live performance and it may take me some time to really digest what I witnessed in the space.
During the post-show discussion I was quite taken aback by the level of humility displayed by both actresses and their willingness to offer themselves. Each is an inspirational figure in her own right, and our brief chat with them yielded even more encouragement from the audience. Both are driven to create, by the urge to add value to their communities and to inspire young artists to develop personally and professionally. Lesego stands as a figure of strength for her activism and work in raising HIV/AIDS awareness in a part of the world where there is still so much stigma surrounding the issue. I was particularly moved by Hlengiwe’s response to the question of what motivates her practice and strengthens her resolve to persevere even in light of challenges to her career. She commented that it is through her efforts to nurture and offer her artistic gifts, and tell the stories of her people that she contributes to the “restoration of the dignity” of her continent. I felt a strong sense of validation for my own decision to pursue a career in performance, and am so grateful for the opportunity to share ideas with and learn from artists who have such a strongly positive vision for Africa.
It became clear through the discussion that for both these women, art isn’t just about money or acclaim– it’s about sharing experience and building the lives of the people around them – and it’s this magical understanding that I believe made their performance so outstanding and empowering.