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Jimi Hendrix and Hlengiwe Lushaba: heavenly union in a requiem for Congo's freedom

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Hlengiwe Lushaba, remember that name. This South African singer sings the paving stones out of the street during Sur lessons traces the Dinozord. She does so with a voice that goes from gritty falsetto to full Wagner soprano, though that term will again be resented by classical sharpshooters. But what would it be? Hlengiwe Lushaba will care little, as she carries Faustin Linyekula's performance to a climax on both sturdy shoulders. Helped by Jimi Hendrix. That is.

Sur Les Traces de Dinozord is an ongoing process of processing by Faustin Linyekula and company rather than an actual performance with a beginning, middle and end. The primal version was made in 2006. It was originally a requiem for Richard Kabako. This poet and bosom friend of Linyekula was hit by bubonic plague on his way to Uganda and disappeared in a nameless grave. The one-and-a-half-hour piece is also a documentary on the life of writer Antoine Vumilia Muhindo. HIj was sentenced to death by the previous dictator, Mobutu, tortured and eventually survived. He plays in 'Sur les Traces de Dinozord': his typewriter forms part of the performance's sound set.


The mourning ritual is ultimately about much more than just that poet and that writer. In 'Sur les Traces...', it is also about the ongoing struggle in post-colonial Africa for survival, for freedom, for recognition as human beings. This is how Faustin Linyekula manages to harness his hyper-individual experience for a universal message.

To do so, he mixes Congolese song and dance with Western archetypes such as Mozart's Reguiem. In the earlier debates during this edition of the Holland Festival, Linyekula already mentioned that he had been accused by black intellectuals in the West that his work was not sufficiently 'African'. His defence to this was that he could only be personal, and that his African life was not only steeped in colonial influences down to the deepest fibres, but that modern culture from all corners of his life as an international citizen also permeated it.


Viewed this way, Sur Les Traces de Dinozord is therefore an example of how an artist, by ignoring boundaries, exposes the boundaries in others. That he thereby fills the last 10 minutes of his performance with a dance to Jimi Hendrix's unabridged Voodoo Child cannot be seen as a knee-jerk reaction to Western domination. Especially not when you hear what Hlengiwe Lushaba adds during the performance. That was a match made in heaven.

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You can get there tonight, Wednesday 5 June, still witness it. Hlengiwe Lushaba is yet to be seen in 'Not another Diva', next Friday.

Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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