BOY’S KHAYA by UK based Tavaziva dance company at the Festival Theatre Studio tonight (Friday 8th October) was performed to an almost full capacity house, and the only two regrets I have from this show are that it was only on for one night and that it was not possible for this to be performed in a larger venue to more people, as this is a work that has real power in its story and message of hope to us all.
This work is the personal story of company founder, Bawren Tavaziva, who was born in 1976 into a world that “gave” him his formative years living in the racially segregated apartheid system of Zimbabwe. This work in which Bawren handles artistic direction, choreography and music is the personal life experiences that some people may still not want to hear the views of (for whatever reasons), but a voice that has to be heard if we are ever going to learn lessons from our mistakes and create a better world for everyone.
A BOY’S KHAYA is a servant’s house, and it was in this single room shack with only the most basic of amenities that Bawren Tavaziva spent long periods of time in the early years of his childhood. Segregated by his colour, Bawren was unable to play with any of the white children around him and locked in this house by his parents (who were unable to leave him alone at home) while they worked for the rich white family of the house.
The fact that any child (let alone one with such obvious artistic talents) could survive this experience and grow up to not only thrive as an adult, but to stay so positive about the world, is itself a small miracle, and it is through the language of dance performed to music and voice-over narration that we get to understand a few of the reasons why this was possible at all.
BOY’S KHAYA is a interweaving of many cultural strands of dance including classical ballet, modern dance and of course African dance, and I wish that I understood more the origins and language of some of the African elements in this production, but that is a task for another day, and I am sure that Bawren Tavaziva intended this work to be one of further exploration for us all in someway.
This work is one that is obviously physically demanding on the dancers - Andre Kamienski, Asmara Cammock, Dakarayai Mashava, Freya Harris and Harriet Waghorn - but the end result is more than worth it. An interesting choice of costume design by Ben Voorhaar and Sabrina Zyla of Karisma to symbolise and reinforce the ropes and chains of bondage and servitude adds much to the overall look of this production. This is all of course set to the wonderful rhythms of African music.
There are many harsh, difficult, and sometimes uncomfortable themes presented in BOY’S KHAYA, but perhaps the most interesting is that apartheid has not stopped, it is not only still with us, but with us on a global scale, and this time the oppressors are not only old colonial powers but multi-national corporations. The message that is, to me, clear from Bawren Tavaziva’s words is that apartheid is ultimately not about segregation of people in this world by the colour of their skin, but by the opportunities in life that are made available to them. The true crime of apartheid is wherever in the world those that have the power and resources of land and food (and so much else, however they acquire them) use their advantages all too frequently to deprive others of even the most basic requirements of food, housing, clean water and education. The light of hope in this story is that one day things will be different and our humanity, our responsibilities to each other, will build a better world for all people.
Review by Tom King (c) 2021
ARTS REVIEWS EDINBURGH