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Musa Hlatshwayo: exploring black male identity

Published on 11 June 2018

‘This is an opportunity to create and stage work that will hopefully address the sociopolitical ills that we are currently going through, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal, without forgetting to celebrate and embrace that which we are successfully achieving and thriving for as South Africans.’

Dancer, choreographer and performing artist Musa Hlatshwayo has received the Standard Bank Young Artist Award in recognition of a professional practice that is as focused on creative rigour as it is invested in grassroots community development work.

This prodigious talent is arguably one of the hardest working young dancers and choreographers in South Africa today. Born and raised in Maphumulo in rural KwaZulu Natal, Hlatshwayo says his upbringing, training and education fostered a deep appreciation for the arts: across genres: “In an effort to not repeat myself in my creative processes, I find myself exploring creative spheres across disciplines and genres to revive my idea of a ‘contemporary’ performance aesthetic. But I love movement, so dance and the use of the physical body – its spirit and its mind combined as a political tool – is where I come back to.”

Udodana - Musa HlatswayoHlatswayo’s piece for Grahamstown is Udodana – a full-length dance theatre work that seeks to explore the black male body – its associated and constructed identity, its placement in the society (particularly in traditional African communities, households and churches) against the many on-going incidents that draw attention to the silenced brokenness of black male identity. Fusing both the abstract and the narrative approach, the work explores the brokenness of the black male boyd, its indoctrination and incubation into the systems which play ignorant if not tyrannical role to the development of black power and unity.

Hlatshwayo has a string of qualifications, including a BA Honours in Performance Studies from the University of KwaZulu Natal and a Dance and Choreography diploma from the Copenhagen School of Modern Dance.

He founded Mhayise Productions, the company under which he conducts much of his own dance theatre work and corporate projects. He also initiated the Movement Laboratory, a development programme that offers free training to young artists and the arts community in and around Durban.

Hlatshwayo has performed with many local and international companies, including Flatfoot Dance Company, where he began his dance training; Fantastic Flying Fish Dance Company; Moving Hands Theatre Company; and the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in the UK. He was FNB Vita’s Most Promising Male Contemporary Dancer in 2001 and has been named KZN Dancelink’s Choreographer of the Year. He won the Eric Shabalala Contemporary Dance Champion Award at the 2016 Jomba Dance Festival and received a Standard Bank Ovation Merit Award last year for KUBILI(2), which featured Doda and Dudlu…Dadlaza.