The 2022 ICA Live Arts Festival

REVIEW OF THE ICA LIVE ARTS FESTIVAL

By Ilhaam Allies (Staff Writer

The 2022 Institute for Creative Arts (ICA) live arts festival, took place from 19 March – 3 April 2022 and utilised various venues around Cape Town. This year the themes of the festival included “sentient being”, “the earth still shakes”, “public intimacies” and “performative utopias”. The festival consisted of 38 production feature artists, mostly from South Africa, but also included international guest artists from other cities such as Paris and New York.  According to ICA , the festival was “designed to challenge and extend the public’s experience of live art in a non-commercial environment and make accessible the work of visual and performing artists”. 

I booked my ticket for “I fuck what I like” by artist Noluthando Mpho Sibisi because of the intruiging title. The performance took place at University of Cape Town (UCT) Hiddingh campus on the 1st April, in the late evening. Noluthando Mpho Sibisi is a South African artist and is primarily focused on the narrative of South African black women. Sibisi’s work chronicles the South African black women narrative by complicating and disseminating ideologies surrounding agency in identity construction within society.

Sibisi aims to highlight the demeaning and dehumanising nature of identity politics. Sibisi offered an explanation stating “ you don’t eat chicken as a black man, you just eat chicken as  a person”. Confining people to labels isolates their human experience to simple terms that do not encapsulate the life of a human being. Sibisi comments on the role of popular media, stating that, “black women’s bodies are over simplified”, leading to a single perspective of victims of trauma.

Sibisi recognizes that while queer black women “do experience the world as a hostile place, equally though some of us have families that love us, we have lovers that treat us well”. Sibisi wants to show that while trauma does exist in their lives, so do other things that bring joy and happiness. 

During the performance, Sibisi portrayed the life of a Queer black woman, the life that is not defined by trauma, but is rich in textures and meaning. We had access to the personal and vulnerable experiences of their life. A post break-up conversation was blasted onto the wall for us to read. We read the messages, we watched as the messages were erased to find simpler words or erased completely, left to be unspoken. We watched as Sibisi called on an audience member and enjoyed an impromptu ‘follow the leader’ dance sequence.

During their performance, Sibisi touched on many universal experiences such as heartbreak, loneliness and joy. The sound of the backspace key as you retract a message reminds you of how hopeless and lonely those moments can feel. While we should allow for universal understanding on many subjects, perhaps human life should not be reduced to simplicity or labels. 

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