Preview: POP- multidisciplinary dance piece- grappling with mental health issues related to homophobia -premiering at 2022 National Arts Festival, Makhanda #NAF 2022

POP- multidisciplinary dance piece -interrogating mental health issues related to homophobia
Where: On at National Arts Festival, Makhanda #NAF2022  

Performances at #NAF2022:

~ June 23, 2022 – 6pm-7pm- Rhodes Box
~ June 24, 2022- 8pm-9pm -Rhodes Box  
~ June 24, 2022- ~ 12pm-1pm Rhodes Box  

Direct booking link:  
NAF 2022 is on June 23 to July 3, 2022.

Visit for the full programme and bookings  
#NAF2022 #ItWillChangeYou    

A much anticipated show on the Curated Programme at National Arts Festival 2022 is POP, “a multidisciplinary dance piece interrogating mental health issues related to homophobia”. The choreographers are Thamsanqa Majela (South Africa) and Matthieu Nieto (France). Thamsanqa Majela was a co-choreographer with Tebogo “Artslave” Gxubane, on the acclaimed, Mommy mommy which was on at on the Fringe at The National Arts Festival 2021. Mommy mommy, also a multidisciplinary dance piece- wowed me with its beauty, emotion and intensity [ Those who watched Mommy mommy, will be tuned into the extraordinary dance theatre, created by Thamsanqa Majela and creatives that he works with. POP is an exciting co-production between South Africa and France and has been created during residencies, from March 2022 and will premiere at NAF 2022. Info as supplied:

POP- project notes

POP is a multimedia dance piece exploring our conversations and introspections about queer lives and mental health through our personal stories. Based on the observation that queer people are more likely to suffer psychological abuse or physical assaults and develop mental disorders, we cross the traces of traumas influencing our construction as gay men and artists. Though we are approaching deep, sometimes brutal issues, as choreographers we wish to infuse a sense of lightness in the performance by staging a pop and fantasy world echoing our inner fantasies and fictions. This is a necessary contrast to give varying layers to our narratives and avoid the pitfall of simply reproducing violence on stage. By choosing to integrate our dances in a digital landscape, we enrich our choreographic writing within an immersive visual dramaturgy composed of multiple colours and shapes – like an imaginary transcription of immaterial, subconscious spaces. Thus, we explore a hyperchromatic aesthetic by revisiting, in our own ways, the heritage of two emblematic artists of the Pop Art movement: Yayoi Kusama and Keith Harring. Like the installations of the Japanese performer and visual artist, these moving, abstract, psychedelic and colorful landscapes depict the movements of the mind in the face of trauma and mental disorders. We invite performers and spectators on a surreal, inner journey where time and space intertwine in a hypnotic way. The performers’ bodies are transformed by the colours projected onto the stage, thereby relocating or depersonalizing bodies and giving them new political, poetic meanings – like the colourful silhouettes of Haring. The space and the body become plastic, exploring the interdependence between the body and its spatial and cultural context, standing on the thin border between abstraction and narration. This somatic journey reveals vulnerable worlds, filled with unspoken words, shame, stigma and secrets, while bringing out phantasmagorical stories and representations. In a desire to affirm these multiple influences that animate us as performers, the body language and the aesthetics of the movement are nourished as much by the fundamentals of contemporary dance as by voguing, waacking, krump, drag, butoh, cabaret, and the cultural expressions that allowed us to transcend traumatic experiences through flamboyant or dramatic acts of resistance. By celebrating our plural influences, we intend to create a queer escape that challenges the racist, heteronormative and overly disciplined narratives that plague bodies and relationships today. The interrelationships between our bodies and their digital, mental spaces will shed new, subjective light on the complex but fluid cultural shaping of gender, sexuality and race. The cabaret-like, hyperchromatic universe provides a backdrop for the duo as we embark on an internal journey filled with cultural conflicts, traumatic violence, but also resistance, affirmation and celebration. This work plays with a back and forth between the dramatic and abstract dimensions of movement. Thus, we will allow enough room for the audience to build their own narratives, to go through an intimate and sensitive experience, and perhaps experience healing and reconciliation in cathartic ways.



Thamsanqa Majela (b.1986) is a dancer, choreographer, based in Bloemfontein, South Africa. He is a graduate of the Performing Arts, Research and Training Studios (P.A.R.T.S). His formal dance training began at Tshwane University of Technology. He trained in Classical Ballet, Contemporary (Cunningham, Horton, Graham) techniques, African dances and other dance genres. As a performer, Majela worked with Dada Masilo, P.J. Sabbagha (Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative), Erik Languet, Gaby Saranoufi and Shanell Winlock among others. In 2015, he was selected as part of the ProHelvetia program to do a research residency in Switzerland with artist Margarita Kennedy. Their duet, Interim, premiered at the University of Johannesburg before touring to the Franco-Mozambican Cultural Center in Maputo, Mozambique; Soweto Theatre for Dance Umbrella; Dihy Soratra Festival in Antananarivo, Madagascar; Tanzfest Basel / Tanzfest Vevey, Switzerland. In 2018, he created a first solo work titled, A Last One in Color (him), which premiered in Mpumalanga for the My Body My Space, Public Arts Festival. A solo followed by a dance film, A Last One in Color, in collaboration with choreographer and performer, Manao Shimokawa, and film director, Axel Stasny. The film received several prizes including: Special Mention 2019 RollOut Dance Film Award, Best Story Nomination 2017 Sarajevo Fashion Film Festival,Official Selection 2017 Mosaic Film Festival, Premiered at the 2017 Japanische Filmtage (Vienna). He then created numerous Short-films, dance: Layered Waves (Mobile Dance Film Festival – NYC, Lift-Off First Time Film Makers – UK), Each Passing Minute (Features on Think Short), iNxeba and Lilith Lucifer and Eve. He co-Choreographed Sub Zero, a film funded by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture. Sub Zero was selected for the Lift-Off Global Network – UK, Woman Scream Film Festival in Dominican Republic.   In 2020, he was invited to be part of Season 7 at the Centre for the Less Good Idea, William Kentridge studios. During this time, he created a work inspired by the Pepper’s Ghost, SPACTRAL, presented at the Virtual-National Arts Festival. This work has also been screened as part of Performance Kokkenet Film festival, Denmark. He also created a comic-duet titled ‘Askies’ as part of his work at the Center for the Less Good Idea. In 2021, he presents a new duet, Mommy Mommy, as part of the National Arts Festival in Makhanda, South Africa. Majela also teaches workshops and dance classes, Movement Studies and Floor work. He has taught the Dance Factory Kids program, Vuyani Dance Company, Moving into Dance Mophatong, Joburg Ballet Theatre, Hilbrow Outreach Foundation and ProfiTraining-Tanz Buero (Basel, Switzerland). He has toured his classes/workshops in various regions in South Africa; Kwa-Zulu Natal, Gauteng, Northern Cape, Free State.    


Matthieu Nieto (b.1987) is a choreographer, performer and educator based in Paris, France. He holds a Masters in Performing Arts (International Cultural and Artistic Projects course) and a Bachelors in Dance obtained from University of Paris 8 (Saint-Denis). He trained in dance and choreography at internationally renowned schools: Donko Seko (Bamako, Mali) R e n c o n t re s I n t e r n a t i o n a l e s d e D a n s e Contemporaine (Paris, France); Coline (Istres, France); Ecole des Sables (Toubab-Dialaw, Senegal); Dance New Amsterdam, and Peridance (New York City, USA). His eclectic career has led him to explore diverse practices in contemporary dance, African dances, yoga, voguing or krumping – influencing his transcultural approach to dance through his projects with Mouvements Migrateurs. He likes to think of creation as a space of multidisciplinary relations, and he often invites voice, text, fashion and visual art into his performances. His artistic practice is made up of collages and hybridization, sensory adventures and human encounters. Exploring various aesthetics, his work sits at the intersection of contemporary art, pop and urban cultures. As a performer, Matthieu has collaborated with choreographers Nadia Beugré, Nach, Maria Jesus Sevari, Joya Powell, Mei Yamanaka, Alvaro Gonzalez-Dupuy, Mercedes Chanquia Aguirre, Moeketsi Koena and George Appaix. He signs several choreographic pieces, dance films and animates various community creation processes. In 2012/12, he choreographed his first solo, I am not my Color, created at the College of the Arts (Windhoek, Namibia) and at Dance New Amsterdam (New York, USA). The piece explores racial representations and cultural fluidity and was presented at Chez Bushwick / Open Studio Festival (New-York, USA); Detours Festival / Wits Theater (Johannesburg, South Africa); East African Nights of Tolerance dance festival (Kigali, Rwanda) and Donko-Seko (Bamako, Mali). In 2017, as part of a residency at Un Oeuf (Fort-de-France, Martinique), he created a performative walk in the streets of the Martinican capital with amateur dancers. He was also involved in other choreographic workshop projects in schools and nursing homes in Ariège. In 2018, his second solo performance, I came here to talk, was presented at the Jerk Off Festival / Point-Ephémère (Paris, France); Pôle Les Bazis (Ariège, France) and Bakelit Multi Art Center and Central European University (Budapest, Hungary), including residencies and presentations of work in progress at the Choreographic Days of Carthage /Institut Français (Tunis, Tunisia) and of the Fabrique Cultural (Abidjan, Ivory Coast). In 2021, he was invited by Wesley Ruzibiza to choreograph a piece for four dancers with Amizero Dance Company. Boy Band was presented at l’Espace in co-production with the French Institute (Kigali, Rwanda).
POP- production credits



Thamsanqa Majela and Matthieu Nieto

MUSIC | Chesney Palmer
DIGITAL ANIMATION | Balekane Legoabe


Dance Forum/New Dance Umbrella (Johannesburg, SA), National Art Festival (Makhanda, SA), Vrystaat Arts Festival (Bloemfontein, SA); French Institute of South Africa – IFAS (Johannesburg, SA), Institut Français & Ville de Paris (Paris, FR), Les Bazis (Sainte Croix Volvestre, FR)

With the support of:

Centre National de la Danse (Pantin, FR), Muda Africa (Dar Es Salaam, TZ), Dans6T (Tarbes, FR), L’Essieu du Batut (Le Batut, FR), Le Ring (Toulouse, FR), Alliance Française of Dar es Salaam (TZ)  

Thamsanqa Majela and Matthieu Nieto have been in residency, since March 2022, to create the work which is scheduled to premiere at the National Arts Festival, Makhanda 2022.

Building up towards the premiere, the residency process for POP commenced in March 2022, and the final residency will take place in Makhanda June 13-22, 2022, as part of The National Arts Festival.  

The residencies have been supported by: The residencies have been supported by:

Muda Africa – Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania Les Bazis, Sainte Croix Volvestre (09), France Centre National de la Danse, Pantin (93), France L’Essieu du Batut, Le Batut, 12, France Dans6T, Tarbes (65), France National Arts Festival – Makhanda (Afrique du Sud), South Africa  


National Arts Festival, Makhanda:  June 23– 25, 2022
Performance venue: Rhodes Box
Performance times:  June 23 (18:00 – 19:00), June 24 (20:00 – 21:00) and  June 25 (12:00 – 13:00)  

Vrystaat Arts Festival, Bloemfontein: July 12– 14, 2022  
Performance venue, times and dates – to be confirmed and communicated.  

POP: Matthieu Nieto (France) and Thamsanqa Majela (South Africa) have been working in residencies, to create, POP, a multidisciplinary dance piece- grappling with mental health issues related to homophobia. It is premiering at 2022 National Arts Festival, Makhanda. Direct booking link:  

✳ Images supplied.