By Odidi Matai-Sigudla
After countless awards and achievements for ground-breaking works, dancer Gregory Vuyani Maqoma and singer-songwriter Asanda Lusaseni Mvana, known professionally as Msaki, will be taking a step back from the stage – choosing the 2023 National Arts Festival as their port of departure.
Maqoma’s roots as an artist were laid as an escape from the political tensions of Soweto in the 1980s. Today, he’s become an internationally renowned dancer, choreographer, director, scriptwriter, teacher, and founder of Vuyani Dance Theatre (VDT). He is known as the ‘trilogy producer’ for a reason, after all.
Following collaborations with numerous artists worldwide, Maqoma thinks it’s time to take a step back from the spotlight. He aims to focus on other projects whilst continuing the mentorship of young dancers of VDT. “I feel like I’ve reached my peak in dance, and I’ve always wanted to retire when I feel like I’ve reached that peak,” adds Maqoma.
Msaki is described as an artist who “doesn’t write songs”, but rather “catches them”. The East-London-born artist has a long history with the National Arts Festival after starting out in the Children’s Festival, later moving into the Fringe as her independent music career began. Similarly to Maqoma, Msaki is taking a step back in order to put her energy into new projects.
She is currently collaborating with the Kwantu choir to make new arrangements for her music. “I don’t have the energy to produce it to where it needs to go. But I know it’s the start of something special… it’s the analogy of planting some seeds, watering them, letting them germinate, and coming back to see what it is,” explains Msaki.
While on her break, she has made it her priority to continue working at the ALTBLK>> (Alternative Black Continua) to support independent artists. Msaki wishes to continue writing songs and spend more time with her family as a “soccer mom”.
“My life is complete without being on stage,” Msaki adds. “I don’t feel like anything is missing. But I do know that there are instances where I need to present the songs I’ve written myself, but not every song I write is for me. So I could live a happy life just writing songs and organising spaces for other creatives to grow and make art.”
To ambitious youth, Maqoma advises that artists remain true to their craft and, most importantly, stay humble. “Understand that the craft in itself is not enough, but is also how we carry ourselves. That gives you a longer life,” he says.
Maqoma’s final performance is on 28 July, whilst Msaki will exit on 1 July. Not to worry. These legends are sure to continue spreading their artistic talents amongst the South African art world and beyond.