Kamogelo Molobye

University of Witwatersrand

Ayanda Khala

University of KwaZulu Natal


This study positions the archive embodied in and through black cultural and traditional ceremonies and celebrations, as constructed, preserved, and understood through the presence of matriarchs. Matriarchs in black families function as sites of memory as well as archivists that express, practice and store cultural repertoires formed through history to shape and re-shape cultural performative rites of passage. As such, the focus is the evidence of South African black feminist aesthetics (Lepere, 2021) as embodied and archived through the labour of matriarchs in cultural performance, specifically MaSteps, at wedding ceremonies and other similar performed communal practices in celebrations in black communities. The embodiment of knowledge and its transference is cradled through the understanding that archives activate an appreciation of the nuances of identities as culturally and socially defined. The cultural and social location of archives function as sites of knowledge production allowing for the translation of living archives that are embodied, evolving, and multifarious. Archives encourage reflections into “communities and their complex cultural expressions that challenge archivists to look beyond traditional practice and embrace new ways of seeing and understanding records” (Bastian & Alexander, 2009: xxii). The paper proposes a theorising of the cultural expression and passing down of traditional dance practices of the black South African matriarch as “calling attention to modes of black articulacy” (Makgabutlane, 2021). We argue that MaSteps embody a reading, sharing, understanding of black cultural celebrations and ceremonies as living archives. The paper asks: What is the relationship between family matriarchs, traditional ceremonies and MaSteps? How can contemporary South African black cultural practices be understood as records of cultural memory? And, how do cultural and traditional ceremonies and celebrations function as sites of (re)shaping conceptions of living archives? 

Keywords: MaSteps, black matriarchs, archive, black cultural ceremonies

Biographies: Ayanda Khala & Kamogelo Molebye

Ayanda Khala is an avid theatre scholar and Performance Studies lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. An alumni Mandela Rhodes scholar and now National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences fellow, Khala is presently enrolled as a doctoral researcher in Theatre Performance Education. Khala’s expansive experience in theatre education includes heading the programming at reputable HIV/Aids organization: Themba Interactive, teaching at Wits University (Johannesburg, South Africa), the University of Pretoria (Tshwane, South Africa), Waterford Kamhlaba UWC Southern Africa (Mbabane, Swaziland) and Maru-a-Pula School (Gaborone, Botswana). Khala’s (2021) most recent scholarly work is as editor of an international theatre anthology entitled Theatre and Democracy: Building Democracy in Post-war and Post-democratic Contexts.

Kamogelo Molobye is a choreographer, performer, researcher and writer. In addition, he is a lecturer and course convener for movement studies, physical theatre and choreography at The University of the Witwatersrand with the Theatre and Performance Division. He is a PhD Candidate at the University of the Witwatersrand, Wits School of Arts, specializing in movement studies and choreographic practices. His research is on developing radical teaching practices that centre on indigenous embodied practices specific to South African theatre and performance departments.