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MY TAKE: 'Going Back to the Truth of Space' and the role of ancestors in life

EWN's Winnie Theletsane shares her views on the role ancestors play after watching the play 'Going Back to the Truth of Space' at the NAF in Makhanda.

Nduduzo Makhathini and Kitty Phetla perform ‘Going Back to the Truth of Space’ at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda on 30 June 2019. Picture: Winnie Theletsane/EWN.

MAKHANDA - I remembered this one time my Sesotho lecturer at the North West University said the ancestors were a link between the living and God.

This was a memory that hit me when I witnessed Kitty Phetla and Nduduzo Makhathini perform Going Back to the Truth of Space at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda on Saturday.

To this day, I remain torn on whether to fully trust in God and let His will be done or humble myself before my late father and his family as the link between me and the most high.

But seeing Phetla extend her hand out, reaching for what I imagined to be a safe space in the world, I can only think of what most people go through in life and their yearning for refuge.

Her whimsical body movement reminded me that we can sprinkle some humour in our communication with our ancestors. They are, after all, the people who raised us and left us all the culture and tradition we live by today. The first emotion she evoked in me was sadness.

She moved around the stage as if she was in search of an emotional shelter as if she was trying to find a space to hide her innocent soul and nurture it until it could face the turbulence brought by life itself. Somehow she managed to make me feel like the ancestors still had the power to guide the living and protect us from evil.

According to the production team, the dance "engages in modes of communication through moments of improvisation as the artists reflect the responses of the spirit world and the guardiance of their ancestors".

As Phetla tried to fill the space within by occupying the space around her, Makhathini brought along soothing tunes that called on the ancestors and a narrator took us through confessions, dreams and visions that made me feel like our late relatives were always sending us messages one way or the other.

I secondly felt safe; safe that I'm not roaming the streets and ducking from life's problem alone. This reminded me of why the Basotho people would greet an individual by saying "Dumelang, le kae?" - a greeting that's symbolic of one not being alone. You are protected and guarded by your forefathers and when one greets you, they ought to acknowledge those who came before you but still walk with you every day.

Makhathini's lyrics and the narrator's stories of encounters with her ancestors transported me to a safe place where sadness didn't exist, a space where my innocence lit the way for me and I was somehow on a righteous path (words fail me because this is something only the cast of Going Back to the Truth of Space can allow you to experience).

Lastly, I felt happy. Content in knowing that what we mostly refer to as personal space is actually more than that. It's a place of revitalisation, recharging and reigniting passions of all kinds. This came through mostly in the last minutes of the show where Phetla danced in the rain (water started falling towards the end of the stage as the sound of rain played in the background and she danced).

It was during this time that the narrator told a story of an "encounter" with her late grandmother.

"Where have you been, Gogo? Did I just play something that resonated with you? Or have you been standing here this whole time and I just opened my eyes to you? Idlozi elihle (the great ancestor), thank you for visiting."

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