I travelled from Joburg where I had been visiting friends and teaching to arrive in Capetown on the 16th August. Toni Stuart met me from the airport (In South Africa, you are always taken care of: as a guest: you are treated so well and with such warm heartedness). Somehow when Toni meets me it feels like we have known each other for years, but actually I had met Toni Stuart only once before: I first saw her at Sadler’s Wells, where I was invited by Eva Martinez to watch Dotdotdot Dance’s Wild Card. Toni recited a poem and the tears fell down my face as I felt so connected to every experience she was reciting. I wrote to her and she sent me the poems to read. One year later, I began to realise that I must work with those poems, and I put together a funding application to Arts Council of England, which was successful and meant we met on skype. I created a 20 minute aerial and dance piece which I shared at Dance City, and when I showed it to Toni, we began to imagine it as a duet, for us both to research and heal our stories around this topic.
The home which I stayed in was an Air BnB rent: a gated home in Observatory owned by an Italian chef. We are greeted by a lovely woman called Sweetness. I instantly find my self wondering: why is my home gated, and with an alarm, and with a gate/cage across the front door: what do I need to be afraid of? I had a gate/cage in my home in Leeds, but this feels immense… a bit like I am moving in to a prison. Just like Brazil, this seems to me to really separate and divide people, and it stays with me, this feeling that fear is in the fore front of people’s thinking: even more so when I am woken by alarms going off in the middle of the night two nights in a row.
I meet Toni and many of her beautiful friends the following day for our Healing Of Memories Tour which we have planned as part of the journey making this piece about our identity and ancestry. Lucelle Campbell, is a historian who was sensitised to the damage associated with a one-sided narrative during the time she spent working at Iziko Museums of Cape Town. Drawing on information collected during her 10 years working in museums and as a historian, she began to research her own ancestry and created the Transcending History Tours. She takes visitors to museums and sites of memory, to offer a fresh, contemporary perspective on the lives of slaves and the Khoisanpeople who originally lived on these lands, and to affirm the contribution that they made to the social, economic, political and cultural life of Cape Town. This was not just a tour, but treading on ancestral ground, healing, light work. It was truly an experience I will never forget along with the very special collection of creatives and healing women on the tour (read more here)
On Monday morning, we began working. We drove together to our rehearsal space talking all the way about the rituals we would like to create during this process, and arrived in a beautiful circus venue. I feel such gratitude at this opportunity to create this work and to share this experience with such a talented artist. We began with words… sharing our experiences as mixed people who are white passing… our guilts, our wishes for our children (to know their ancestry), our hopes for the future, our past experiences, our mothers. There were tears, there were silences and there lots of similarities across continents. It was fascinating to learn about the complexities of race in South Africa and to share experiences that in the UK I almost never talk about.
Over the week, we truly dived in: we ate together, we stayed together, we walked at sunset, we warmed up and we meditated. By Friday, aching and super tired, we had the framework of a twenty minute duet using dance, text, singing and aerial.
Here is what we have learnt after our first week:
I am complete (Ella means Complete) Toni is worthy of praise (Toni means worthy of praise).
The creative tension being so high meant we made our best work.
We can hold ourselves through difficult things.
Naming the uncomfortable things means we can work with them and grow our capacity to hold space for more of ourselves.
We have made an honest and vulnerable piece of work that is scary and powerful.
We have also created a dope working environment and a beautiful friendship.
We hope that our audience will be able to look at all the parts we turn away from so they can realise they are already whole, just as we have in this rehearsal process.
Thank you to the Artist International Development Fund supported by Arts Council of England and British Council for this opportunity.
Lucelle Campbell, based in Cape Town, is a historian who was sensitised to the damage associated with a one-sided narrative during the time she spent working at Iziko Museums of Cape Town. Drawing on information collected during her 10 years, she began to research her own ancestry. She established Transcending History Tours, which takes visitors to museums and sites of memory, to offer a fresh, contemporary perspective on the lives of slaves and to affirm the contribution that they made to the social, economic, political and cultural life of Cape Town.
This was not just a tour, but treading on ancestral ground, healing, light work. It was truly an experience I will never forget along with the very special collection of creatives and healing women on the tour. First we visited the Kraal of the KhoeSan next to the Castle of Good Hope. The Kraal was the first buildings (matjies huise) at the Cape thousands of years before the Dutch, British, the French Huguenots and other Europeans arrived.
Next we visited the Wall of Memory. The first largest consignment of slaves brought to Cape Town in 1658 were mostly Angolan children, some of them still babes in arms. Between 1891- 1941 7000 children are orphaned at the Cape, most of them of colour. This memorial was a homage in their memory which also spoke of the homeless children of the present day. Next we moved to the Auction Block, in the middle of a busy main road, where thousands of Slaves were sold into bondage.
We visited the Groote Kerk: a church which was extremely influential in orchestrating the first legislative framework with regards the establishment of an Apartheid government, and a statue of Jan Smuts who Lucille explained is a ‘statesmen’, who she calls tyrant. It reminded me of Edward Colston, a Bristol-born English philanthropist, merchant, slave trader, and Member of Parliament, whose wealth was acquired through the trade and exploitation of slaves. Whilst his history is being revealed and there are many powerful statements happening with the changing of names of buildings named after him, he still has a statue in the centre of Bristol. Jan Smuts made his money from benefiting from slavery and later became a politician and an architect of apartheid.
We followed this with a visit to the former Dutch East Indian Company Hospital, a hospital which was managed by slaves themselves. It was their first experience of their new life at the Cape and for a few the last the months journey just too much. Not all survived their stay in the hospital.
Finally we went to the Slave Lodge Museum, which was built like a fortress to hold slaves. This warehouse type building was where they were bred to provide a bank of slaves for the Dutch East Indian Company. A poem by Malika Ndlovu who was with us on the tour played as we walked through the museum, and Lucy offered us many insightful truths about the artifacts that had not been recorded. I found this column of names and the calender exhibition which featured interviews and photography of 12 descendants of slaves who had been given new surnames upon arriving in South Africa after the month they arrived.
I also found the section about the evolution of Afrikaans: which I always thought was a white language but actually is recognised as Creole: a mixing of African languages such as Khoi San and Dutch as explained in the documentary below. We also visited the Slave Bell inside the museum. With the ringing of the bell slaves were called to order and attention. From morning to sun down the bell call kept the slaves in their place.
The word Safari was first an Arabic word ‘safara’, meaning ‘a journey,’ which was first used as a foreign word in the English language in 1858. Then Swahili: The Arabic word found its way to East Africa where it was adapted to the Swahili verb kusafiri which means ‘to travel’ and the noun safari.
Shosholoza means “go forward” in the Ndebele language, and I think this summarises my experience on the Soul Safari perfectly: the song is about hope and was used by anti-apartheid activists during apartheid. When apartheid fell, the song became a vehicle for national reconciliation, and South Africans of all backgrounds joined together in singing Shosholoza in willing their team to victory in the 1995 rugby World Cup (which they won by the way!). The imbalance in wealth and power in South Africa and across the world is far from sorted out, and there is still much healing to be done, but I realised on this trip that the work starts with us: on this trip I opened my heart and dropped my own past: realising that none of this forms me, I discovered my soul purpose and was able to connect to source energy. It is from here that we can achieve greatness and act from a place of true loving kindness.
I always swore I would not go on a Safari, because it represented colonialism to me: generally images we see of safari are of rich white tourists travelling to Africa to take fotos in their best in khaki. Africa has been raped, pillaged, and squandered ever since Europeans first decided she was profitable, and so I felt uncomfortable, especially being a white passing person of mixed heritage to go on safari.
So why did I choose to take part? Having read William Whitecloud’s The Last Shaman, and studied his teachings, I had made a new pact to myself: the only way I would ever go on safari were if it were William’s Soul Safari to Swaziland and South Africa, a journey said to have a profound transformational effect based on the essential elements of his work. The soul safari was said to pair inner awakening with the wonders of Africa through your heart, and that my life would be changed forever…. so when I managed to manifest a space there was no looking back, and when I found out I was accepted on the AIDF trip to South Africa working with Toni Stuart about transformation and identity at the ICA Live Art Festival I knew it was also time for that soul journey.
The theme and intention of the Soul Safari was to let go of the past to create every day, experience in the present, from our highest source of creative power. Imagination is the real director of your life and the reality you can create. With William each day we had different exercises, meditations and made new discoveries about ourselves and each other, all based around opening our hearts, learning what we love and letting go of the past stories to see with fresh eyes. We finished each night with a heart meditation at sunset or around the fire.
My first room in Malandela’s in Swaziland was my own: a beautiful orange room, but when we moved on to Kruger park, I shared with the wonderfully talented DJ Queenfisher which was an absolute blessing. I also loved our family: the group who I toured with were Stephanie Yow, Sharon Raindancer, Lordes Anne Requena and William Whitecloud himself.
(Photo by Ahmad Jooma)
Race was still never far from my mind on the tour. Apartheid has left its footprint on the geography of South Africa as well as the balance of wealth, from the gated homes in certain areas, to the townships built to re-house a black work force. Kruger National Park is another reminder of the legacy of the white man in Africa: Kruger park stretches for nearly 200 miles and covers an area the size of Swaziland, making it South Africa’s largest, most-profitable, and best-known national park, ‘owned’ by Richard Branson among others.
William Whitecloud teaches many techniques to get you to your true self: connecting to innocence, the power of visualisation and intention and how to use your intuition. Before many of our Soul Safari game drives we would imagine and set an intention for what we’d love to see, for example, a leopard kill, giraffes running, cheetahs, crocodiles, a herd of zebra, lion cubs. And in many cases we saw exactly what we asked for, and sometimes more! I found myself so aware of the circle of life, that death and life are constant in the savannah. That everything is connected, and that the animals are so aware and at the same time unfazed by living their true purpose simply and authentically. When I got back to Jo’burg I found my eyes were still looking for animals: so accustomed had I come to spotting them.
The eight days I spent with William Whitecloud and the Soul Safari family were unforgettable. This trip has been a journey of soul: enlightening in so many ways. I learnt things about my family history and enneagram behaviours, I understood how my past was not serving me and my relationships, and I learnt to step into my heart. I also learnt that I could fit inside the box at the bottom of my bed (Photo by Meera Patel). On the last night, we watched the stars with a beautiful meal outside and I learnt to sing ‘Shosholoza’, also known as the second national anthem of South Africa: a mix of Zulu and Ndebele words that was sung by all-male African workers that were working in the South African mines, with Stuti Singh and all the staff at the Idube game resort where we were staying.
On the Soul Safari, I learnt that in dropping my grudges and made up stories and moving from my heart I can contribute to the world in a truly authentic way. If I truly go for what I love and act from that higher vibration then that can impact positively in ways we cannot even fathom: a planetary healing, and I got to imagining: what if everyone acted from heart in every moment! If everyone dropped their past and was authentically acting in their highest vibration: that would be a truly wonderful world: a world where politicians acted from love! A world where everyone knew their true power and potential. I know how much our beliefs can get in the way of following our dreams, but I would totally recommend this trip to anyone looking to open their heart and truly understand themselves and others from a place of love and kindness.
Olá, Hola, Bonjour, Pẹlẹ o!
The sun is shining and the sky is blue. What a wonderful July we have had!
Here are our updates from the past month and our what nexts…I try to keep our updates short and sweet but with plenty of links if you want to know the full story!
This month we have been on an incredible tour around the UK. We visited Trinity Centre in Bristol, Lion Salt Works in Northwich (Yes it is really called Northwich in the county of Chester!), supported by Cheshire Dance, Horniman museum in London, Dance City in Newcastle and Yorkshire Dance in Leeds. In each city Roots of Rumba has taken on a slightly different format… pictures and more details below! We are also conducting some research and making plans for the future of the festival (supported by Eclipse theatre and Live Theatre in Newcastle) which you can participate in here (Thank you!)
Today, I am boarding a flight to head to Capetown where I will spend just over three blissful weeks collaborating with the amazing Toni Stuart (Links to her poetry here). We will be collaborating on a duet called Papyllon which will use silks, poetry, papyrus and paint to explore what it means to be a ‘citizen of the world’. Watch a sneak preview here
And we are excited to announce our line up for Roots of Rumba London which happens on the 15th September below! (Read about all the artistshere)
10.00 – 11.00 Samba Masterclass with Orquidea Lima Felgueiras
11.00-12.30 Ella Mesma Company Class
12.30- 14.00 Rumba Masterclass with Luanda Pau
14.00-15.00 Lunchtime Talk (Pay as you feel: Speakers will be dedicating their time to give you a historic talk: Bring your lunch and your questions: Subject The Roots of Samba with Xavier Osmir)
15.00- 16.30 Orisha Masterclass with Miguel Gonzalez
16.30- 17.30 Kizomba Connection Class with Iris De Brito
Marv Radio, Luanda Pau, Ama Rouge Ensemble, Dani Sands, Iris De Brito, Sandra Passirani, Myriam Gadri, Franck Arnaud-Lusbec, Ffion Campbell-Davies
DJ Lubi Jovanovic
Below there is more information on these and a few other stories we hope you might enjoy! Thank you for your support and I hope you enjoy another month of sunshine this August,
Roots of Rumba Leeds (Read more about the event here)
Thank you Yorkshire Dance for having us, to Wardrobe, to DJ Lubi and all the amazing performers on the 20th July.
It was a really special night: we held a Q&A with the artists (Thank you for the suggestion Ian Abbot!) and we had a beautiful jam at the end of the session. The audience were fun and super supportive and enthusiastic… here is a sample of what they said:
And the after party was just on fire!
Ella Mesma Reccomends
So… here at EMC…
We love to recommend other artists we see shining, books we think you might love… this month it is all about books… here is a top 5 book list of our recents… some fiction, some fix your life, some historical: Enjoy!
Born a Crime: Trevor Noah
The Long Walk to Freedom: Nelson Mandela
The Wonder: Diana Evans
The Multi Hyphen Method: Emma Gannon
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Richard Carlson
A Course in Miracles: Helen Schucman
Lyrically Justified: Urban Word Collective
And thank you to all those who recommended these books to me!
Roots of Rumba Newcastle (Read more about the day and artists here)
On Friday 13th July we held our first CPD day (Continuing Professional Development day) for selected North east artists, captured by Nicola Hunter
The Institute for Creative Arts (ICA) Live Art Festival 2018 will take place from 1–16 September 2018. This interdisciplinary festival is designed to challenge and extend the public’s experience of live art in a non-commercial environment and make accessible the work of visual and performing artists who explore new forms, break boundaries, flout aesthetic conventions, tackle controversy, confront audiences and experiment with perceptions. The second platform, Intimacies and Biography, considers intimacy and personal performative portraiture in the time of decolonisation, and this is where we will present Papyllon.
Congratulations to the new Rainha da Bateria (Queen of the drums) at London School of Samba where I was queen in 2008. Long live the Queen!