Nelisiwe Xaba

Bang Bang Wo Plasticization

At the frontline of political conflicts over the body, one performer’s powerful denunciation of consumption and materialism

The South African choreographer Nelisiwe Xaba was born and raised in Soweto, the area southwest of Johannesburg strongly associated with opposition to Apartheid. In her work, she accepts the way that black women are frequently stereotyped as “exotic queen” figures, understanding how this makes her own body something inherently politicized, and responds vibrantly and at times humorously to the political nature of the gaze her body receives.

With a title meaning “help” in Chinese, Bang Bang Wo is a lecture performance about support in our present globalized society. Eloquently reciting a text that is rewritten according to the contexts of the performance location, Xaba gradually constructs a wall with bags of different types of grains. Though support is regarded as something essentially good, what kind of dynamic is inevitably created between the helper and the helped?

In Plasticization, Xaba walks around in a large plastic bag amid various identities, exposing the simultaneously sexual and political nature of the body. We have a highly ambivalent, love-hate relationship with plastic. Though necessary to protect our hygiene, plastic is not biodegradable and, as such, an increasing threat to the environmental balance of our planet.

Performed in English with Japanese surtitles

Nelisiwe Xaba

Nelisiwe Xaba (b. 1970) is a South African choreographer and performer. Her work is informed largely by her feminist and racial politics which challenge stereotypes of the black female body and mainstream notions of gender. Xaba has been involved in various multimedia projects, collaborating with visual artists, fashion designers, theatre and television directors and poets and musicians. Xaba’s seminal works such as Plasticization and They Look At Me & That’s All They Think have toured internationally over the last few years. In 2013, Xaba performed The Venus in Venice as part of Imaginary Fact – Contemporary South African Art and the Archive at the South African pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In the same year, the film version of Xaba’s acclaimed performance piece Uncles & Angels, a collaboration with Mocke J Van Veuren, was awarded the FNB Art Prize. In 2016 Xaba created Urban Mermaid which was performed at the Goodman Gallery 50th Anniversary and at Berliner Festspiele. Xaba’s latest work Bang Bang Wo premiered at the centre for the less good idea in 2017.

Concept, Direction, PerformanceNelisiwe Xaba
Multimedia and AssistantCandida Merwe
Supported byJapan Foundation for Regional Art Activities [New Vision – Performing Arts / Gender / Society], National Arts Council of South Africa, The Centre for the Less Good Idea
Presented byKyoto Experiment