By Vilia Dube
Ululations and praise accompany an unending applause from a full house at Rhodes Drama Theatre as Gregory Maqoma takes his final bow – tears well in his eyes.
Taking place on the same stage as his first performance as a 2002 Standard Bank Young Artist, it is a profound and fitting moment for the artist, who has announced his retirement from performance.
In Exit/Exist, with its integration of spirited live music, visuals, a guitarist and gifted singers, the renowned choreographer gives his all. For those present, it is more than a performance, it is a life changing experience.
Exit/Exist is one of Maqoma’s most profound solo performances. In short, it is the poetic re-enactment of the journey of his ancestor, 19th century warrior Chief Maqoma, who battles to maintain Xhosa cultural traditions following the arrival of the coloniser. The merging of traditional and contemporary dance drives a story where we see the soldier become a man and who has to continuously keep guard for the name of his people.
Speaking to Cue after the show, Maqoma expresses how he is yet to digest his emotions on finally hanging up his gown, and once more honour his ancestor’s legacy in his homeland, the Eastern Cape. Maqoma leaves the National Arts Festival with the statement, “I could have not chosen a better place to honour my existence through his exit and my exit through his existence.
Following his departure from the stage, Maqoma aims to focus on completing books he has written in hopes of publishing in October, as a birthday present to himself.
We wish him many more successful years and assure him that his name will leave a lasting legacy at the Festival, and across the globe.