JOMBA! is delighted to be honouring Jay Pather as the 2021 JOMBA! Legacy Artist. Pather is no stranger to JOMBA! and has, over the years, presented numerous of his dance works with Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre at the festival. As founder and director of the company, Pather has forged a path as one of South Africa’s most critical and innovative dance makers often celebrating the border crossings of cultural clash and the dis-ease of the ‘rainbow nation’.
‘Legacy artist’ is a daunting mantle to wear, best to be worn after one’s death. While still living, my way out is to match my respect for the institution (here Jomba!) that bestows this hefty title, with healthy levels of scepticism and imposter syndrome. I never took the idea of creating a career, a canon, a lineage, a legacy very seriously. I like many colleagues, pretty much got into a studio and worked – eclectically, fancifully, flittingly. Inspiration arrived in bursts and sporadic waves, dependent on space, time, mostly opportunity and something as banal as funding to pay performers. I never felt like I was passing any legacy, I taught whoever was wanting to be taught. In a grudgingly bestowed democracy, and in a country beset by corruption and ineptitude in arts governance there was (is?) no neat, institutional narrative or clear career trajectory in the arts. Bits of legacy linger but in fits and starts, disruptive, tangential, chaotic, ephemeral.
In this light connecting my presentation with the idea of border crossings, the provocation of this year’s JOMBA! is so helpful. Borders for me have not been ones that you can gracefully jeté over, or jump, or even assail. Border crossing has meant digging below, just before the fence, rummaging through mud, crafting in trenches, tunnelling through underneath. Getting to the other side clear, clean, triumphant and unmarked is impossible – things tug, hurt and tear. And you gather parts, reassemble something resembling a new way, and move on to the next dig.
I offer, thus, a composite film then comprising excerpts from a few of my works which aim to swim through all of this. Works that will be shown include Qaphela Caesar, rite, Body of Evidence and Hotel featuring the Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre.
Jay Pather is a choreographer, curator, writer and teacher. He is a Professor at the University of Cape Town where he directs the interdisciplinary Institute for Creative Arts (ICA). He is curator for the Infecting the City Festival; the ICA Live Art Festival, the Afrovibes Festival (The Netherlands); co-curates the Africa 2020/21 Season (France); Body, Image Movement (Madrid), Spier Light Art (Cape Town) and has curated for Zeitz MOCAA and the Spielart Festival. His artistic work deploys site-specific, interdisciplinary and intercultural strategies to frame postcolonial imaginaries, decolonisation and matters of social justice. Works include Qaphela Caesar, a deconstruction of Julius Caesar, at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, rite, a re-imagining of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps, choreography for the Firebird and What Remains for which he won a Fleur du Cap award for Best Direction. He serves as a juror for the International Award for Public Art, was appointed Fellow at Queen Mary’s College, University of London and was made Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.