The Drostdy Lawns were a strange sight on Saturday 14 March 2015. A group of students had assembled in the middle of the Drostdy space jumping, doing mass choreography and dramatic movements such as hugging each other at random. This was the first of what is to be many ‘encounters’.
The students at the lawns were mostly Drama students and are a part of a programme called The Gathering/Intlangano. Smangaliso Ngwenya, a professional dancer and participant in the programme describes it as a “process oriented development programme that uses dance and choreography, applied theatre, and narrative therapy as methods to excavate its aim of producing a series of performative encounters called ‘Gatherings’”.
Ngwenya stated that he jumped at the opportunity to fine-tune his craft while simultaneously getting feedback from the Grahamstown community. This is because The Gathering is a community-centred programme which sees the community not only watching the dancers but also joining in the activities in a flash mob styled-routine taught by the organizers. Ngwenya added that the encounters would foster partnerships between students at Rhodes University and students in the Grahamstown community in the hope of developing creative exchange.
According to one of the organizers of the programme, Nomcebisi Moyekiwa, the performance encounters are aimed at “stimulating dialogue between youth from Grahamstown east and west. With its focus on human subjectivity, experience and creativity, it starts with people living their daily lives, it investigates their talk, their feelings, their actions and their bodies as they engage in a social world and share the constraints of history and material world of inequalities and exclusions that mark their world”.
These encounters are also planned for other dates and will occur at selected socio-political artistic platforms in Grahamstown during 2015.