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Does there exist a different kind of diva, one that is beyond the gloss and the glamour? Director Faustin Linyekula and South African singer and actress Hlengiwe Lushaba want to show a different kind of diva, far removed from stereotypes – a diva who performs in back gardens, mingles with normal people, and has never lost touch with daily reality. The idea arose when Lushaba was recording her music at Linyekula’s Studios Kabako in Kisangani. This performance is the result of their collaboration, which also includes Congolese percussionist Huguette Tolinga and dancer Johanna Tshabalala. Not Another Diva ... is a compelling theatre concert and an ode to the power of woman.
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Based on a song cycle written by Hlengiwe Lushaba, this production is about an ancient line of female power – wisdom passed on from generation to generation. Together with Johanna Tshabalala
(dance), Franck Moka (electronics and vocals), Huguette Tolinga (percussion and vocals), Pati Basima (bass), Zing Kapaya (guitar) and Heru Shabaka-Ra (trumpet) Lushaba takes the audience with her in a breath-taking theatrical concert. Her impressive stage presence and voice merge with the energetic sounds of the Congolese ndombolo and rumba.
An earlier contribution of Faustin Linyekula to the Holland Festival, in 2012, was La création du monde (1923-2012) – a pointed African commentary on the modernist ‘negro-cubist’ ballet with the same name from 1923. That was also the year in which Linyekula and Lushaba started working together and they created the performance What is Black Music Anyway / Self Portraits for the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The idea for Not Another Diva… was born when Lushaba wanted to record an album of songs at Linyekula’s Studios Kabako. He thought of turning them into a theatre production. This led to a discussion about the cultural role of the diva and how we often see them as tragic. Women who expend all their energy on the spotlight and the public, sacrificing their family life or even their actual lives for fame. One example being the famous South African singer Miriam Makeba who, after a lifetime of activism in the struggle for Apartheid, quite literally died on stage.
Not Another Diva… presents a diva who knows her roots, keeps a hold on reality and stays in contact with her family and everyday life. Not Another Diva… brings the female power of the diva back to the back yard, the place where ordinary people live, stories are told and the washing is hung out to dry. A place of reconciliation, far away from the spotlight. Being a diva in Africa isn’t easy, Linyekula explains: ‘Our society prefers submissive women. It takes a lot of power to step up, to occupy that space and to be a leader’. The three women in Not Another Diva... are mountain movers, Linyakula says. ‘They’re so powerful that the four male performers who surround them don’t take away their energy. This performance is a sort of celebration of these women’s power, an ode to the knowledge that being powerful isn’t contradictory to being beautiful. Art cannot change a whole society, but it can change individuals and that’s the first part.’
Faustin Linyekula (Congo, 1974) is a Congolese dancer, choreographer, theatre maker and storyteller. In his work he addresses the legacy of decades of war, terror, fear and the collapse
of the economy in Africa. After studying literature and drama Linyekula left Congo in 1993, at the time still called Zaïre, and settled in Nairobi, Kenya. There, he cofounded the first Kenyan company for contemporary dance, Gàara, in 1997. In 2001 he returned to Zaïre, by now the Democratic Republic of Congo. In spite of the bloody conflict ravaging the country, he decided to stay and founded in Kinshasa the Studios Kabako, a creation and research space for performing art.
Together with four dancers who were trained by him, he created Spectacularly Empty, an account of his return to his native country. It was the first in a series of works in which Linyekula reflected on the history and the collective memory of his country and its people, the corruption of its leaders, their censorship and their lack of vision for the future. Two of these pieces, Le Festival des Mensonges (2005) and The Dialogues Series: iii. Dinozord (2006), were invited to the Festival d'Avignon in 2007, the first time such an invitation was extended to a Sub-Saharan African artist. In 2012, he made a sequel, Sur les traces de Dinozord, which will be shown at the Holland Festival this year with a brand new cast of young talents.
In 2006, the Studios Kabako moved to Kisangani in the North-East of the country and opened up to new artistic fields, including music and film. Alongside, indeed, fostering the work of younger Congolese artists, from training to production and touring, the Studios Kabako are also working with communities of the Lubunga district on the South Bank of the Congo river, around culture, education and drinking water issue. In total, Linyekula created 17 pieces with his Studios Kabako, which toured around the world, including more more more… future, a punk/ndombolo opera. Other collaborations include a duet with Raimund Hoghe (Sans-titre, 2009), a solo for the National Ballet of Portugal (2016) and a series of in-situ performances for museums, including the MOMA in 2012, the MUCEM in Marseille in 2016, the NYC Metropolitan Museum in 2017 and in 2018 the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren. Passionate about sound, Linyekula is also mixing music for albums and live concerts.
Linyekula received the Principal Prince Claus Award in 2007. The jury praised him ‘for his innovative activation of culture in the face of conflict, and for his energetic commitment to the development of his community.’ He came to the Holland Festival in 2012 with La creation du monde (1923-2012), a creation for the Ballet de Lorraine based in Nancy. In 2017 The New York Times wrote: ‘There’s no walking away from Mr. Linyekula ... painful, brutal, livewire intensity.’ In 2014, he and his Studios Kabako were awarded first prize by the CurryStone Foundation for their work in Kisangani. He regularly teaches in Africa, the United States and Europe. The full year of 2016, Linyekula was associate artist to the city of Lisbon as part of the Artista na Cidade Biennale.
Since September 2018 and for three years, he is associate artist to the Manège in Reims.
The South African actress, choreographer and singer Hlengiwe Lushaba (1982) was born in KwaMasu, a township to the north of Durban. Lushaba studied drama, dance and singing at Technikon Natal (Durban University of Technology) and won an FNB Vita Award in the category ‘Most Promising Dancer’ in 2002. She is one of the founders of The Plat4orm, an alternative performance space for artists. Since her debut Sacrament (2001) Lushaba has developed a number of successful choreographies including It’s Not Over Until the Fat Phat Lady Sings (2002). This production made a tour of festivals in South Africa, France, Switzerland and Belgium. In 2006 she received the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Dance and presented Ziyakahipha… Come Dance With Us at the Grahamstown Festival, which won her the Gauteng MEC Choreographic Award. In her own country she is known to the general public for playing the character Khetiwe in the television series Gaz’lam, and her performance in the reality-TV show Life’s a Stage. Since 2012 she has regularly collaborated with Faustin Linyekula. Together they created the performance What is Black Music Anyway / Self Portraits for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In her work, Lushaba takes on stereotypes of black representation in the performing arts. She passionately believes in the role art can play in social change. Lushaba: ‘My first name Hlengiwe means ‘redeemed’. I try to find redemption in everything I do, for myself and others.’
- concept, artistic direction
- Faustin Linyekula, Hlengiwe Lushaba
- Faustin Linyekula
- Hlengiwe Lushaba (zang of stem), Johanna Tshabalala (dans), Franck Moka (machines & zang of stem), Huguette Tolinga (percussie & stem), Pati Basima (basgitaar), Zing Kapaya (gitaar), Heru Shabaka-Ra (trompet)
- Studios Kabako / Virginie Dupray
- Festival de Marseille, Le Manège, Holland Festival, Kaserne Basel, Bozar Brussels
- with support from
- Pro Helvetia Johannesburg