Every year, enthusiastic and zealous lovers of Traditional Song and dance in the annual President’s Day Celebrations dedicate a whole day to witness their favourite groups performing live on stage. Out of all the categories in the competition, this is the one category that commands a strong following. You need to have been one of the hundreds of the enthusiastic fans to truly understand what the fuss is all about.
Forty-four groups were participating in eleven categories that included Tsutsube, Diware, Seperu (chobe), and Seperu (North West), Hosana, Sebirwa, Polka, Namastap, Setapa, Phathisi, as well as Dikhwaere. Over the past years, the SSKB Auditorium has been the preferred venue for this category. For good reason of course, looking back at some of the categories such as Phathisi, Setapa, and Tsutsube, they would easily dismantle a weak stage. When a dancer from one of these categories takes to the stage, one almost feels sorry for the poor stage as it endures the constant banging from the dancers. As is customary in the competition, each year, groups bring their all to the stage.
Under the Tsutsube category, two arch rivals were facing each other. The two are Nxanxase who were the defending champions, and the Kareng based Tshetlha ya Dikgwa, formerly led by Segametsi Moxoo and previously won the competition three times, and went as far as London to showcase their craft. Nxanxase from New Xanagas led by Rebecca Hendricks were confident minutes before they took to the stage. During a chat with Hendricks prior to their performance, she was cool and collected, and told this reporter that the return of one of the groups that previously defeated them meant nothing.
“We are ready. We are just here to polish off our performance,” she said as she took a painkiller for a troubling headache. In fact, two or three of her female dancers, were also taking painkillers. Opening up the stage in the Tsutsube category was Mogoditshane based group, Sesigo, followed by Matsubatsube from Letlhakane. Rebecca’s group were third to take to the stage, and the last one was Tshetlha ya dikgwa.
What makes Tsutsube magical is that everything is precise and coordinated. Something worth noting is that everything in Tsutsube has to be done choreographically from the clapping of hands to how the men move their feet as they dance. Everything has its purpose in Tsutsube and the least that any group can do is insult the originators of this dance by adding their own modern versions. This is something that some groups have a habit of doing, and have previously been cautioned by the judges. The clapping has to produce a sound similar to a plank. The feet of the male dancers, has to stay glued to the floor, and the only sound that should be heard is their rattles while their female counterparts can raise their feet. As for the song, one needs to distinctively hear that this is a Tsutsube song without any unnecessary modification.
Taking to the stage, Nxanxase were in their element. The crown belonged to them from the onset. With lead dancers such as Tebogo Botlhole nicknamed V8, and Hendricks, the crowd was granted of a spectacular performance. And they delivered all the way. Each time that Botlhole took to the stage for a few minutes, the crowd went wild. The same effect was experienced when the group leader, Hendricks made a few appearances towards the end of the magical performance. It was just fascinating to watch her transform and bring a new kind of vibe to the stage. Last year, Hendricks had left the stage transfixed and in a different type of world. Trying to talk to her immediately after the performance, it took her a few minutes to gather herself and return to planet earth. It is this passion and dedication that saw them retaining their number one spot. Tshetlha ya dikgwa, Matsubatsube and Sesigo came second, third and fourth respectively.
Returning to the stage this year after an absence last year was none other than Dipela tsa ga kobokwe in the Phathisi category. Other groups that were participating in the category included Kala tsa kgale, Bajakhudu and Meribo Creations. This is one group that gave many groups sleepless nights over the years. And those who were missing them at the competition last year were enthusiastic and hopeful that the group would fight tooth and nail, and reclaim their top spot. Mind you this is a group that previously hugged the top spot for six long years. But their great return was not great after all.
From the minute that they took to the stage, it was evident to those who have followed the performance of the group for years that there was something amiss. The energy, coordinated formation were missing. In the previous years, when Dipela took to the stage, you could feel the energy in the room changing, and one would sit rooted to their spot. But this was a far-fetched dream from all of those years. Even with the fans screaming, and celebrating at the end of their performance, it was evident to the naked eye that the group has lost its magic.
The Phikwe based Kala tsa kgale retained the top spot, winning this category for the second time in a row. The Molepolole former national champions came second, followed by Meribo Creations and Bajakhudu.
Other reigning champions include Mwathiyacthicho (Diware), and Chankonchanko (Seperu-Chobe). Other winners for the night included Tiwazani (Seperu- North West), Tjelenge Tjengwao (Hosana), Tsa mmala cultural group (Sebirwa), Remmogo (Polka), Isiqwaqwa (setapa) and Lesedi Choir (Dikhwaere).
Gosego Motlogelwa, 33, is a man of few words when it comes to answering questions about his influences in his work and his design process.
Like most visual artists, the Lerala born artist prefers to let his remarkable work do all the talking, and will only take time to explain his works in as few words as possible.
For those who are not familiar with his work, Motlogelwa, a member of Thapong Visual Arts Centre is a wood carver and sculptor, an extraordinary one for that matter.
And for the second year in a row, Motlogelwa scooped first position in the Sculpting category under Art in the annual President’s Day Celebrations. He entered the competition with an outstanding piece of work titled Kulenyane. One of the striking features about this incredible piece of work is the pricing.
You take one look at the price and if you are still a newbie in the art scene, for a second the figure steals your breath. You are left wondering what the young man was thinking when he came up with that figure. At P40 000.00 this is one of the most expensive pieces that is currently being exhibited at the Thapong Art Gallery right now. For a trained eye in art collection, this price is nothing to sneeze about it is after all a brilliant piece of work that promises to stand the test of time.
At first look, one cannot decipher the concept behind this piece. On second inspection, one can instinctively see the figure of a woman who is balancing two male figures on her hands, hence the title Kulenyane. Motlogelwa explains that the piece is about current events in which some women find themselves in the midst of multiple concurrent partners.
Speaking in an interview with BG Style, he said that when it came to choosing materials, he goes with Iron Wood (Motswere) because of its durability, noting that it can last between 20-30 years. The wood is also of good quality. Breaking down his creative process, he explains that he started off by trying to find an awe-inspiring sculpture.
“From the word go, I wanted a piece that would show my abilities as an artist as well as steal hearts while being topical at the same time. My process of creation always begins with research,” he says. Overall it took him a month with breaks in between to finally be satisfied with the finished product.
He admits that it was not an easy journey that cost him some sleepless nights. One of the first things that he started off was making a drawing on the chosen wood, and using a chain saw, he moved on to removing the unwanted pieces.
“It was challenging and I had to rely on the wood to guide me on which direction to take. Often times, it took me on a completely different direction from the drawing that I had initially made on the wood,” says Motlogelwa. To finish off one of his priced possessions, he then used cobra and dark brown nugget polishes to give it the finished look. The two polishes were heated, and this particular creation process required him to work by the fire to heat the two polishes. “I wanted to give it a 100 percent finished look,” he explains.
Quizzed on the motivation behind the price, he is very candid about the fact that he took into consideration factors such as durability, quality of the work as well as skill and composition.
As for his win, he is happy that his finished product once again scored him points with the judges. “I am very happy, and this time around I decided to come up with something totally different,” he says.
His last words to his peers are that they should invest time in research, dedicating time to their works as well as conceptualising their works around topical issues. Motlogelwa is not a newcomer in the art scene. In 2014, he represented the country in China at the International Celebrations of the World Wood Day.
The celebrations were held in three provinces in China. Before China, he had represented the country at the regional celebrations that were held in Tanzania.