A impression by Signe Tveskov
Performance: Maureen Velile Majola & Jelena Kuljic
Video: “Isililo” by Zanele Muholi
Where: Constanza Macraz/ Dorkypark – Studio 44. Berlin
Heavy sounds of breathing. The sounds are somehow disturbing. We don’t know if it comes from pain or pleasure. I have no visuals to attach these sounds too.
The uncomfortable tension is soon relieved. Two female voices, the voices of Maureen Velile Majola and Jelena Kuljic, in detail describe the source of this heavy, now very sexual breathing. Following each other’s rhythms they create a narrative of female bodies moving in, on, with and before each other. Nibbles, skin, breasts, sweat. The whole scene is suddenly very visible, more than the smiling faces of the two women with each their microphones, now projected onto a set of doors. It is a scene of queer sex, intimacy between women. The intimacy between the women does not directly let the audience be part of this pleasure, but they open up a space for a pleasure, which does not exist in an otherwise heteronormative world. We have entered a space I don’t want to leave again. It is an almost aggressive conquering of a visual and emotional space. It is a public demonstration of queer intimacy and pleasure. Presented is an aggressive manifestation that can’t be ignored. A pleasure and intimacy which can’t be doubted.
But the sexual rhythms become songs of mourning as the silhouette of Maureen enters the dark stage singing, while lighting candles carefully laid out on the floor around her. It is a dramatic change of scene. Projected on the doors is now a video showing a row of women walking in mourning. Our participation in the previous, exciting manifestation of love, sex and intimacy has now brutally been stopped and we as the audience are forced to take part in a completely different reality. One candle after the other is lit. Everything still follows a rhythm. It is the same voices in a completely different scene now. Maureen creates a beautiful space on the floor. She is not alone; Maureen carries the mourning of a whole community.
Metallic, loud, aggressive rock music invades the scene. The music violently interrupts this mourning; it feels disrespectful and over-dramatic. Another poem is sung and screamed while being projected onto the doors. This somehow seems like a testimony to the source of the mourning.
Maureen is silent, the candles are still the only light on the stage. We are taken back to a before, before the mourning. Another before than the scene of the queer intimacy. Two experiences so far from each other. I fear to learn that there is a connection.
Maureen now walks across the stage and sits down. She starts laying out and re-arranging bricks on the floor. She pauses and I realise that she has spelt the world hate with the stones. Hate is what connected the two spaces leading up to the mourning. Maureen looks up at the audience and reveals the reason for the twenty bricks. Each brick represents a South African hate crime victim or survivor. Their names are said out loud. They are victims and survivors of hate crimes committed against Black LGBTI people. To each victim or survivor a date, a year and a couple of sentences are attached, bringing their personality, their importance and the hate crime closer to the audience. Maureen lights up the memory of each person by lighting two small candles on each brick.
The words “Sifela i Ayikho” appear projected onto the door as Jelena and Maureen again start singing. It translates; “We are being killed for nothing”. They leave the stage and their songs of mourning become lower and lower as they disappear. Left on the stage is the word hate lit by the twenty names of hate crime victims and survivors.
Movement, to move, can mean a transition from one phase to another. One can also be moved emotionally. A movement is a group, a community moving for social or political change.
Maureen and Jelena’s performance moved.
About the author
Signe Emilie Tveskov is a student of Art History and Gender Studies with a focus on and interest in queer art, theory and culture. She is living, working and studying in Berlin.