Tanzania-based Circus of the Senses are presenting their internationally-toured Mother Africa at London’s Peacock in February/March. All the artists in the company trained at the Dar-es-Salaam Circus College and we have a word with dancer and choreographer Noluyanda Mqulwana (Nolly)…
Congratulations on bringing Mother Africa to London for the first time – what’s the show about and what will the audience take away from it?
The show is about a township called Khayelitsha ‘my home’. The name of this township means ‘my new home’ and it was named during the apartheid days when many black South Africans were forcibly removed from their home in Langa. It is a township that is full of shacks and some areas still have no electricity and running water, but through all this, the people that live there are still very happy and energetic. And they empower themselves with ‘Vuka uzenzele’ which means ‘Get up and do it your self.’ What the audience should expect is a full-on story from the township of Khayelitsha and its lifestyle.
You grew up in poverty in Khayelitsha – is it really as vibrant, energising and hopeful as Mother Africa depicts?
Yes, it is. I grew up in a disadvantaged community that is full of life and hard-working single parents like my mum, who would do anything just to see us getting the best education and to have food on the table.
Over a million people have now seen the show – how does it feel to have such a huge success and are there any downsides?
Oh boy!! This has been the biggest success in my life as a choreographer abroad. I never thought my work would travel this far and I thank God for this great opportunity every day. I do miss my family a lot, especially my sister’s baby girl. I made a promise to myself when she was born that I would like to see her through up till university, but at least I get to see her once a year, so we still have a strong bond. I am always communicating with my family, plus I have godparents in Switzerland who treat me like their own child, so I’m never too far from home.
But when I left ‘Lion King’ in Hamburg and began to be a freelance dancer, things were very challenging and I was very scared to tell both of my families, because they would want me to go back home and I wasn’t ready for that. So I asked God to open doors so that I could be happy again, and straight after, that’s when I found Mother Africa!
When did you first realise you wanted to be a dancer and choreographer? And who are you dance heroes?
I realised at the age of 9 years old that I wanted to be a dancer, and a choreographer at the age of 14 when I first saw Jazzart Dance Company performing at Artcape Theatre.
My heroes would have to be my ex-teachers. I’m here living my dream because of the hard work that they have invested in me and I strive to make them more proud than they are already.
What other things are coming up for you – I believe you are now based in bustling Hamburg?
Oh boy!! After London, I will fly to South Africa to teach workshops for the project that I come from, called Dance For All. When I get free time, I always do this – go back home and give back to the project. Then afterwards I plan to go to Botswana and do research about the culture there for a future work.
And oh yes – I live in Hamburg, which is an amazing place too. I’m sad that after London with Mother Africa, I’ll have to move to Munich, where I’ll start my new journey with Apassionata Park Gmbh as a full-time dancer.