Mlu Zondi, Dancer and Performer, Durban

South African artists on Sylt

"Inside myself"

When on stage, Mlu Zondi is very focused. No distraction, just concentration, continuous movement, sometimes repetitive. „Furthermore, I don’t get tired as long as there is music“, says Zondi who studied drama, performance and dance in Durban. But his surroundings during performance are mostly different from what is commonly referred to as „stage“. After his first professional show in a theatre setting Zondi discovered that the same piece worked better in a gallery. Today he feels much more comfortable performing in a visual arts environment. „I like people to come in and watch as long as they like. Maybe they walk away after five minutes, maybe they stay for an hour.“

In any case they will not distract him from his dance. The ability of concentration may root in his family history, explains Zondi. His parents died early and he lived with his mother’s family. Aunts, nephews, cousins, but none of them his age. He learned something that is essential for his work today: „I have to be inside myself and be comfortable there.“

Now the frequent work in galleries seems to reflect on Mlu Zondi’s art. „I love paintings although I cannot paint. But the pictures are just there and nothing happens.“ So for the new piece to be shown in summer 2010 that he is working on during his stay on Sylt Zondi will create moving pictures that will be shown on five screens arranged in different angles and completed by a live performance. „It’s your decision where you want to look and how long. From the pictures you create your own narrative.“ Subject: the confusion of young black african males between urban life and their rural roots, symbolized by traditional ceremonies of ancestral worship. „If you buy a new car and then have an accident, everybody will say this happened because you did not slaughter a goat before, burn incense or whatever you are supposed to do.“ Zondi says he would not know the right ceremony for a any case -  having grown up in a house of women. But all his friends would have parents or grandparents in rural areas and return there from time to time. What a contrast to modern city life. And it imposes a lot of questions: Are the ancestors’ spirits staying at the old homes or are they following their ever-moving offspring? „If I take a plane, does that mean I have to leave them at the airport?“ Mlu Zondi asks, laughing, but serious about the general subject. And in case traditional ceremonies should become less important - what is going to take their place? „Human beings are bound to believe in something“, so Zondi is convinced. What is left when the spiritual aspect of men is cast aside?

After performing one of his pieces that also deal with issues of race and politics as well as identity, Mlu Zondi feels concentrated, open minded, clean. „Performing is my own way of spiritual meditation.“

Congratulations to Mlu Zondi
winner of the Standard Bank Award for Young Artists in the category Dance
Johannesburg, 2009