Cartographies of survival, breath, beauty, touch, desire

Siwela Sonke’s new work set against the dancers’ homes in the sprawling townships of Umlazi and Kwa Mashu in Ethekwini considers life under lockdown and the overwhelming fear of the pandemic. While maps and statistics paint a cold sense of the toll on populations, other cartographies – those of the emotion, the individual, the physical provide the racing pulse behind impossible to imagine numbers. Solo works set in homes provide the impetus for the creation of a range of characters through the signature dance and image making style of Siwela Sonke. Duets and group work embrace the yearning for and the difficulties of moving together, connecting and holding.

Themes that result mirror the very real issues that surface under confinement in a closed space: a haunting relationship between an absent father and his son; an ancestral grandmother and a granddaughter with a child alone at home; the challenges in a barely surviving friendship, mourning, disrupted sleep and spiritual holding.

The work itself, held by a legacy of entanglement, proudly features four generations of Siwela Sonke. In these cartographies against an unyielding map of hard living, the moving, falling and flying body, embodies both trauma and triumph, reminding us of our capacity for survival and hope.

  • Ticket Price: R40.00
  • Genre: Dance
  • Duration (minutes): 50mins
  • Release Date: July 27, 2021 16:00 - July 31, 2021 23:59



Choreography: Neliswa Rushualang, Sibusiso Gantsa and Company

Artistic Advice and Direction: Jay Pather

A Litany for Survival by Audrey Lorde, spoken by Buhle Ngaba and Noxolo Rushualang
If you could see my scars, Anonymous, spoken by Ntlantla Maxhobi
What does not Sink by Siphokazi Jonas, spoken by Siphokazi Jonas

Baaba Maal, Hazmat Modine, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Alva Noto, Nils Frahm, Steve Reich

Film Production: Karen Logan

Camera: Marcello Maffeis

Administration: Magdalene Reddy

Production Management: Noxolo Rushualang

Thank you: National Arts Festival, National Arts Council, Ethekwini Municipality, University of Cape Town


Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre is a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary platform for education, training and performance of classical, traditional and contemporary dance that probes the South African identity within a global context.

Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre was founded in 1995 at the dawn of a new South Africa. Built upon an existing program to redress technical dance training for black youth in Durban, the company—named after the isiZulu term for “crossing over to a new place altogether”—was formed with eight performers under the directorship of Jay Pather and resident choreographer Simphiwe Magazi.

For over two decades, the company has broken boundaries with its intercultural and interdisciplinary productions, drawing from the classical and contemporary dance vocabularies of KwaZulu Natal, including traditional Zulu dance, isicathamiya, contemporary African dance, hip-hop, pantsula, classical Indian dance, and ballet. Collaboration, through improvisation and choreography, is central to the company, and members are both performers and creators in the development of new work as it cultivates new languages, images, and forms. This ownership of performance vocabulary gives the dancers a distinctive sense of intimacy with the subjects and themes they portray.

The company has travelled extensively across the globe, including India, Sri Lanka, Germany, the US, Zanzibar, the Netherlands, France, Algeria, the UK, and Oman. In an initiative to take dance outside of traditional spaces, Siwela Sonke began a series of site-specific works with the popular CityScapes and NightScapes series in early 2000. They performed The Beautiful Ones Must be Born at the Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, Qaphela Caesar (based on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) at the Cape Town City Hall and Johannesburg Stock Exchange, rite (based on Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps) in an old warehouse in Maboneng, Body of Evidence on the top floor of a medical centre, and Blind Spot—a three-hour work about immigration and displacement—on the main streets of Copenhagen. The company’s last visit to New York was for a site-specific work on the steps of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as part of an exhibition entitled Personal Affects.