Rising star choreographer Nomcebisi Moyikwa, winner of an unprecedented two ovations in one day at the National Arts Festival, started dancing as a 10-year-old in Grahamstown’s community halls.
Moyikwa, 24, who won awards for the all-male dance piece, Waltz, and the all-female dance piece Inqindi, describes herself as a mother, choreographer and performer, parttime teacher of movement, project administrator of the Rhodes University-based First Physical dance company, and co-founder and director of choreography with the Creative City Project of Makana which was designed and is supported by the National Arts Festival.
She spoke of the complexities of coming from a strongly traditional and patriarchal home in Fingo Village and going on to earn her honours degree from Rhodes University in drama, specialising in physical theatre, choreography and applied theatre from Rhodes University. She had to ask her family not to treat her as if she was an "outsider". "I had to sit them down and tell them that I was still the same person, and that I just wanted to come home and be me."
Her's is a difficult story, with layers of criticism and revelation, especially around patriarchy. Her father left home for Port Elizabeth and another marriage when she was three months old, leaving her mother to raise two children with the support of Moyikwa’s grandparents. Her grandfather was deeply traditional and supported education, but only for the men of the clan. Moyikwa’s mother was a silent campaigner for her ehildren's education and subverted her father by saving her cash for her ehildren's school fees. Moyikwa attended Samuel Ntsiko Primary, Archie Mbolekwa Higher Primary and Nombulelo High. She loved traditional dance and drum majorettes at her primary school, but then Rhodes-based community activist and dancer Janet Buckland came to school offering dance classes with the Amaphiko (wings) dance project, opening the eyes of a Fingo Village child to a wider world of dance. "Nom", as she is known, was only 10 and in Grade 6. "My first memory of twice-a-week dance classes with Amaphiko was that I had control of my own space. Those dance classes allowed my body to feel free. I felt release and at the same time you have to pay attention to yourself. You have to point your feet, and pay attention to your body." Four years of dance classes in BB Zondani or Nombulelo community halls led her to a place in the First Physical. "We'd dance on Fridays at DSG [Diocesan School for Girls].
I continued to work hard at schoolwork. My mom was not into this dancing thing. At one point I stopped. She questioned the value of dancing (as a money-earning career)." Her inspiration for carrying on was Nonhlanhla Makhatini. "When I saw dancers on TV it was always the white faces. but when I saw Noni dancing for First Physical and she was a black dancer. I saw myself in her. I thought OK, it can be a thing for a young black woman, It can be!" When she obtained a good matric with As for accounting and maths, and a B in business accounting, Moyikwa still wanted to dance. She recalls with deep gratitude l thought 0K [dance] can be a thing for a young black woman. It can bet up High Street to pay the money, (the shortfall left by her NSFAS loan) to Rhodes to make the payment. When Janet heard about this, she contacted the (then) vice-chancellor, Dr Saleem Badat, and he paid it from his own pay." Badat, on becoming vice-chancellor in 2006 announced that he would sacrifice R250 000 a year of his and fondness how her grandfather, a gardener at Rhodes University, took his grandchild to the GBS Mutual bank where he withdrew R11 000 from his lifesavings. "He put it in his case and we walked salary and benefits to the Jakes Gerwel Rhodes University Scholarship fund.
Her first year saw her relish her psychology lectures which helped her come to consciousness about her own identity and life experience. Her connection with dance only came in her honours year. Much of her awakening as a young adult came through a realisation that women in her home were invisible strugglers. Despite her grandfather's shifting to support her as a university student, there was still a stiff hierarchy in their Victoria Street home, where she still lives. Moyikwa’s professional journey started with a year-long internship in Johannesburg with the Forgotten Angle dance company, where she worked for renowned choreographer by PG Sabbagha. "I had never left Grahamstown. Johannesburg was very loud. My head is very loud, it's always going, always thinking. It felt like the culture was loud. I could not grab anything. It was like a relentless mass.
You can't walk slowly there, like here in Grahamstown. There you feel a constant urge to move. There's no value in that for me. You don't fully grasp things, and that is how it is there for me personally. Her piece Waltz, was an exploration of men and dance. "I worked with a mixed race east of six male dancers and started by saying let's give hugs. It was weird, they didn't want to hug. That's when I shifted too. I saw how patriarchy was more damaging and exhausting for the man. Black men believe they have to be strong; you ean't do this, say that, this is how you have to hold yourself. It's damaging." She designed the piece and walked away for two weeks telling them to "find their own journey". Her return revealed shifts, a new warmth and understanding between the dancers had appeared. "There was a shift in the energy and space. They were caring for each other." Her all-women piece, Inqindi, was an abstract of the portrayal of women in theatre as domestics, rape victims, prostitutes and one-dimensional struggle heroines. firstname.lastname@example.org DOUBLE OVATION: Dance director and choreographer Nomcebisi Moyikwa, 24, of Fingo Village, Grahamstown, won two coveted National Arts Festival ovation awards for her all-male show, 'Waltz' and all-female show, 'lnqindi'