the African Cypher
“I dance as if I have a gun to my head.” – Mada Sthembiso, (Shakers&Movers)
The African Cypher is the birth place of ritual, celebration, council, story-telling and dance.
Street dance, in the ghettos of South Africa, is a complex underworld.
In Mapetla, Soweto if you steal phones and hand bags you will not live long. The community will kill you. If you do a heist they will tell the police you are not there. Prince tells me this as we walk back to Mada’s place from the shisa nyama. (an informal outdoor fire where you can buy some meat to cook and drink a beer)
Prince is a pantsula, he used to be a tsotsi, a gangster, a thug. Today he walks his streets with pride, he is a pantsula dancer and a little bit famous. Tom London from Soweto’s Finest says, “When we dance we find purpose with our bodies”. Prince strolling down the dusty street with his fluid movement, a little trouble in his hat and a slight swagger is perhaps the embodiment of that sentiment.
When he dances on the street corner with Mada; the kids, the tsotsi’s, the mama’s, the unemployed and the hustlers all stop to watch him. I always wonder how it must feel to have that power residing right inside you. No props, no burning hoops – nothing.
Whatever this dance thing is. It is beautiful, part circus/part soul.
No matter the context or style. We all ultimately dance for an audience of one.
Directed by: Bryan Little
Produced by: Filipa domingues
Cinematography by: Grant Appleton
Edited by: Grant Birch
Sound design and composition by: Simon Kohler
A Fly on the Wall production
Running time : 89 min
English/Afrikaans/zulu/sotho/totsi taal : Subtitled in English
(french and Portuguese available)