“Do Not Touch My Hair” – A performance Review of Chombotrope 

by Acaye Kerunen

During the Opening performance of ChomboTrope , the Jitta collective by Kefa Oiro and Stephanie Thiersch yesterday at OneTen on Seventh, it was clear that they had used their creation process to deliver a strong sense of agency with shared ownership and ‘authenticity’.  All experienced through the designs by Xenson Znja to dj mixes by Dj Elephant from Belgium and drumming mixes by Dodo Nkishi, a German /Congolese singer-songwriter, composer and multi-instrumentalist.

Ssali Ras B, TurboRayzs delivered decent sound and lights by the way. Big up!

Xenson’s futuristic fashion from recycled tyres. Photo Credit: Esther Mbabazi

Xenson harasses the familiarly held mindset to backcloth by dying, texturing and cutting it into voyeuristic shapes which sit side by side with recycled tyres as accessories to bodies. The bodies are presented as mobile contemporary museums of technological and cultural evolution on a global stage that is rooted in Africa.

The movements are assertive yet graceful, bold and humble at the same time among Alex Naudet a French dancer,  Marie Zoe Bokwood, Stephanie Thiersch Mouvoire and Kefa Oiro.

Going by the hybrid nature of everyone in the performance, socio-cultural attributes such as nationality, ethnicity, socio-economic and religious backgrounds are non-existent here.

Two years of creation that they engaged delivers fluid individuals’ artistic intention transmitted into collective creation and collaborations in performance. The result is a classy, quality, entertainment and inspiration without trying too hard to be literal about every installation within the production.

Moreover, gender matters only in terms of the context of a choreographic frame as seen in the vogueing of Zoe and clowning movements of Kefa hence, forwarding the notion of gender neutrality.

The onstage costume changes and transitions reflect committed, constant negotiations between movements that posit for accidental outcomes of cultural conflict that need not be classed or censored due to subjectivity. Nudity becomes a safe familiar occurrence onstage within a carefully planned framework of executed actions.

Photo Credit: Esther Mbabazi

Fifteen or so minutes into the production is a fighting duel that boldly borrows movement styles from the Masai which gets transmitted into obvious martial art forms of karate shuto strikes, propagated by thriller sound designs at the dj mix table to the delivery of brass and African drums. We are transported into a three dimensional live movie set where every moment is at arm’s reach and the end of our eyelashes.

Zoe claims the stage with her voice stressing “Do not touch my hair”: a statement from her personal inertia of growing up mixed race German/ West African but, never really belonging or being accepted. She admits to constantly having to withdraw from the pressure to authenticate herself by allowing boxed minds to feel her hair for realness.

Photo Credit: Esther Mbabazi

Xenson and Oiro each deliver poetic lines in intervals which are stylistically incoherent for the most part. Thus poking the cliché dictum of global societies rushing to define evolving states of ownership and passage, gomesi video, voguing,  nuditynakednessAfrican drums et all, by classing them.

Sharp angles, a harsh attitude, a fierce walk and the ability to actually drop, gives Zoe passage into vogueing which, she claimed, she learned while growing up and being raised by gay men.

N’deye Seck the avid drummer from Senegal manages a drum set of jembes and a talking drum which command everyone’s attention in one strike as her coarse voice belts “Sankalewa”.

You are subjectively transported to every place you have avoided sitting in and you return with a thump to reflect on the isms you store inside. The fluidity of roles interchanging on the stage by the Jitta collective crew deeply reflects on the elusive notion of ‘ownership’ in this global village we find ourselves in.

Photo Credit: Esther Mbabazi

The last show is tonight before they move on to Nairobi Kenya for another showcase. Thanks are due to the German Embassy, Ugandan German Cultural Society (UGCS), Anja Göbel and Lara Buchmann and team for making it possible. Thanks is also due to to AfriArt Gallery and Daudi Karungi for allowing a privileged view of Xenson’s Gunflower series collection , also on showcase within the gallery until 9:00pm at no extra cost to audience members.

Might I add that for 10,000 shillings per person, it is way cheaper than its actual value? You have to see the show today at 7:00pm to understand. It also makes a very decent case for deliberate, extravagant expenditure on art production.

Re-published with permission from the author. Original from Acaye Elizabeth Pamela’s facebook page

Acaye is a writer of poetry, a producer of theater and women activist. She also endeavored into fashion, and public relations for art events. 

Pamela Acaye Kerunen

Acaye is a writer, creative doer and seer based in Uganda. As a writer/communication consultant, she is committed to gathering, designing and sharing information, to propel creative industry growth and transformation. Her writing includes plays, poetry, journalism, copy writing, short stories and event scripts.

To follow more of her thoughts about creativity and business, you can find her on Twitter and Instagram @AcayeKerunen, #AcayeSpeaking and/or sign up for my newsletter Kenduzine.