Maritzburg Dance-Makers honoured with 2019 JOMBA! Eric Shabalala Dance Champion Award
The 2019 JOMBA! Eric Shabalala Dance Champion Award, in honour of the memory of Eric Mshengu Shabalala who tragically passed away in 2011, was given to two Pietermaritzburg dance-makers Bonwa Mbontsi and Tegan Peacock, at the 21st JOMBA!Contemporary Dance Experience on 5 September.
Speaking at the award hand-over, Artistc Director of JOMBA! Lliane Loots said, “ The award is given not only in recognitions of performance or choreographic excellence, but also more profoundly and more importantly, it is given in recognition of dance practitioners who have worked tirelessly to help grow a culture of dance and dance training in KwaZulu-Natal – who have supported the growth of dance as an art form at both community and regional level.”
“This year the award is being given to two incredible dance champions. These amazing individuals work have spent dedicated years of there still young lives being part of an incredible re-surgence and re-growth of dance in Maritzburg, being a powerful nexus for contemporary dance in KZN. Most significantly that have not done this only in their own work, but have found a way to create a bigger sense of community and of sharing spaces and resources to grow dance – this is what this award is honouring.”
Bonwa is a graduate of UKZN, Pietermaritzburg, where he obtained a BA degree in Psychology and Drama & Performance Studies, with a specific focus on dance performance and choreography. He has worked with choreographers and dancers, PJ Sabbagha, Fana Tshabalala, Shanell Winlock and Craig Morris, taught at Maritzburg College for four years and co-founded ReRouted Dance Theatre.
Specifically to the award, he runs an outreach youth development work in Pietermaritzburg and Melmoth in association with J.A.W. (Justice and Women). In 2018 he founded the Bonwa Dance Company, which has strong outreach and dance development programme called the Super Troupers that prides itself on its integrative approach to dance education, performance opportunities and youth empowerment.
Tegan started her dance training in Classical Ballet and a BMus (dance) degree at the UCT’s School of Dance. In 2013 she relocated to Pietermaritzburg where she helped to co-found contemporary dance company, ReRouted Dance Theatre. Both individually and with her collaborators, they have choreographed and performed on numerous arts platforms around the country, , and won a 2016 Standard Bank Ovation Award at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival for BIRD/FISH.
Tegan conceptualised and held the first ReRouting Arts Festival in Pietermaritzburg this year. The festival is a site-specific multi-disciplinary arts festival that uses alternate public spaces around the city. The festival aims to create unique audience experiences, build bridges and create dialogue between different socio-economic and cultural demographics while promoting a culture of art and dance within the city. “It is this phenomenal and courageous act of opening this PMB festival space for dance and dancers is what we honour,” said Loots.
In accepting the award Bonwa Mbontsi said, “It's a blessing and an honour to receive this prestigious award, I'm so proud to be standing on the shoulders of giants like brother Eric Tshabalala. In the (outreach) work (I do) I have found how powerful dance can be in creating personal change in these in these young individuals’ lives. Through time and through the ages, great thinkers have urged us to dance creatively through life…I appeal to everyone in this challenging time of change to dance together (to find solutions to these challenges and provide an antidote for some our social ills).”
Tegan said, “I would like to thank Jomba, the Centre for Creative Arts, Lliane (Loots) and the organising committee for the honour and recognition you bestow upon us this evening. Your unwavering support of dance and local artists is unprecedented and truly valued in KwaZulu-Natal. I am in awe of the work that you do and grateful for the privilege of learning and growing under your watchful gaze. I believe that the evolution and sustainability of dance will come from the creation and growth of community more than that of individuals working in isolation. As such, Jomba and similar spaces, along with the varied dance work that is taking place, are critically important in developing a culture of art within the city and its people.”
Notes from Lliane Loots Speech:
In selecting recipients, the Jomba! committee look for those gifted individuals who have gone above and beyond – often without funding – to dedicate themselves to the cultural industry and to put KZN dancers and dance on the national and international map. We are also mindful of KZN dance practitioners who have supported the Centre for Creative Arts and the JOMBA! platforms by taking advantage of the free workshops and for tirelessly bringing work to the Youth Fringe and the JOMBA! Fringe platforms. This too is an indication to us of a desire to grow dance.
Past recipients of this prestigious award include Jarryd Watson for his work with the Wentworth Dance Movement, Sifiso Khumalo for his dedicated work in growing the Flatfoot Dance Company’s dance education and development programmes. In 2013, the award was given jointly to Byron ‘Bizzo’ Tifflin and Preston ‘Kayzo’ Kyd - two dancers who still continue to grow a community of dancers. In 2014 the award was jointly given to Jabu Siphika, Julia Wilson and Zinhle Nzama. They are especially honoured for the dance development work they are doing though FLATFOOT DANCE COMPANY with young girls and women in KZN and with using dance to address a society fraught with difficult gender politics that often makes the lives of young women so challenging. In 2015 the award was given to the inimitable Ntombi Gasa of Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre for a lifetime of growing dance in this province through her teaching, choreography and dance administrations. 2016, 17 and 18 saw three of KZN most amazing dance practitioners honoured; Musa Hlatshwayo, S’fiso Magesh Ngcobo and Mduduzi Mtshali.