We spoke with Vincent Mantsoe about his pieces NTU and Skwatta
DanceWorks: NTU means ‘nothingness’ and Skwatta refers to South Africa’s squatter camps. Why did you choose to express these concepts/states/ideas through dance? How do you understand these two pieces as relating to each other?
Vincent Sekwati Mantsoe: Even though “Nothing” pervades, something always take shape/form, either materialized or spiritually. Both NTU and Skwatta have been created for open dialogues, so I come to believe that both solos are connected either by the states of spirituality, humanity, poverty, pride and so on. NTU is nothing; you as an audience you can create and re-create this path for yourself and see where the path takes you, yet within this Nothingness, the simplicity of nothing, the state of something take shape. In this case Skwatta is the cure fact of how ‘underprivileged’ still live under dyer situations and this is not a unique condition only in South Africa but all over the world. The poor still get even poor and the rich still even richer.
“You as an audience you can create and re-create this path for yourself”
DW: Culture is something embodied; something we understand through being and living. How do you hold and express both traditional and contemporary elements within you and your work?
VSM: Well, It has been a bumpy road, but as long as I stand, walk, talk and can still express different issues or elements through my body, cultural preservation in the 21st century has always been my true ally. I also hold great respect for tradition, African, Asian and western. And living in the 21st century, I try to adapt old traditions, carefully crafted to be on an international arena where individuals can be inspired or simply travel a new path. Bumpy roads are simply obstacle that can be cleared with patience, and being true to your art. Over the years, I have been slowly crafting these elements. Do they fail? Do they work? Yes, they do. But the philosophy in both my work and in me thrives to be honest and be what it is.
“Bumpy roads are simply obstacle that can be cleared with patience, and being true to your art”
DW: How do certain places affect what you create? How does traveling to different places around the world affect the work you do?
VSM: Even though I am based in France, my work is very much rooted in Africa, specifically South Africa. Hence traveling around educates me in learning more of different cultures and how it can or cannot affect where I come from. Human culture/traditions have evolved, that is the nature of things. How it affects me and who I am matters as to how I create my work one way or another.