AN INTERVIEW WITH TSHEGO
By Belinda Otas
Wednesday, February 13, 2008.
Afrika! Afrika! is the new breathtaking circus experience that has taken London by storm. Conceived by Andre Heller, over 1.5million people have experienced this extraordinary and unique show since it premiered in Frankfurt, Germany.
Described as a dazzling fusion of energetic dances from different parts of Africa and flavoured with African American Hip-hop to Gumboot dance from South Africa. Every night, audiences are being entertained by performers from all corners of Africa. The NewBlack Magazine recently caught up with Tshego, who has been with Afrika! Afrika! for two years to tell us about life on the road.
How old were you when you discovered you had a passion for dance?
I was 11 yrs old when I first discovered my passion for dance. I loved watching dances wherever I could - television or on the streets and my sister, and I would then choreograph something together.
When did you start honing your dance skills?
I remember when my father was still alive, he would encourage me to dance and he loved watching me dancing. I started dancing at the Mmabana Cultural Foundation in my town Mafikeng when I was 13 years old.
What part of South Africa are you from?
I’m from the Northwest of South Africa, a town called Mafikeng.
When did you join Afrika! Afrika! and how did that happen?
I was one of the first cast members of Afrika! Afrika! having started with the show in October 2005. So I have been with Afrika! Afrika! for two years. I joined Afrika! Afrika! through David Matamela, one of the best South African choreographers. I was working with him and doing different shows nationally, and when he did the Afrika! Afrika! auditions, I was chosen.
What has the experience being like since you joined the team?
This is one of the best experiences I have ever had - meeting and working with different people from other parts of Africa, learning different cultural dance styles, languages and diverse cultures. And the style of cooking, going to different cities in Germany and meeting different people all the time.
How do you prepare yourself physically and mentally for each performance?
This is one of the most important seasons of life for me because if I don’t prepare myself, I don’t enjoy the performance at all. Everyday the dancers have a warm up for an hour and a half. I always give time for myself to meditate, pre-setting my costume and doing my makeup.
Describe the feeling and your experiences when you are on the stage?
I love to perform – it is a part of my life. I always feel happy and blessed to share my talent with the others and I love to see the audience reaction to the performance I give them.
You have been described as proficient in both traditional and modern dances, what’s your favourite form and type of dance?
I love all types of dance styles. I started modern dance at a young age and as I was growing, I started to learn traditional dance. It’s a blessing now that I’m in Afrika! Afrika! because I have learned other traditional dance styles from other African countries; Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Gabon.
How does it feel to know you are part of a production which celebrates the diverse cultures of Africa through dance, music and other forms of body art?
It’s such an honour and a blessing because I never thought I would be part of such a great production. I love my brothers and sisters from different countries. Now I know that Africa is one. We might be speaking different languages but we are from the same mother and father…that’s what I think.
What cultural impact do you think a show like Afirka! Afrika! has had on audiences in the countries you have been to date?
Afrika! Afrika! is a show of joy, fun, love and energy. We are trying to show the audience that Africa has more than war, famine, diseases and crime through our cultural dance, music, mental and physical abilities. We always try to leave the audience feeling happy and excited so that they can come back again and again.
What is the atmosphere like backstage with all the other performers?
It is one of the most exciting aspects because I get to learn something new everyday. Everybody is so active - dancing, exercising and singing!
How does it feel being on the world stage before thousands, knowing your every move is being watched?
Oh! Sometimes I’m ready and at times I’m nervous because the UK is a new start for us. It’s not the same as Germany, everything is different. But, we are always ready and looking forward to it because we believe in ourselves.
What are some of your fondest memories about the show to date?
They are quite a lot but I always love the first and the closing weeks of the show in all the cities.
When Afrika! Afrika ends, what do you want to take away with you?
If it’s possible, all my brothers and sisters I’m working with, because I have made a new family here so it will be sad not to see them again.
For more information visit: www.afrika-afrika.com
Belinda Otas is a London-based freelance journalist and The New Black Magazine's theatre editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please e-mail comments to email@example.com