African Footprint – Interviews with Motulati and Zulu

African Footprint – Interviews with Motulati and Zulu

African Footprint - Motulati and Zulu

African Footprint - Motulati and Zulu

The musical is a perfect mix of energetic African, jazz and modern dances, African music instruments blended with beautiful lyrics, insightful poetry and colorful choreography. The musical, African Footprint produced in South Africa by Richard Loring incorporates elements of social/family life of South Africans in a fictional story with happy end. The ensemble includes Black, White, female and male South African dancers and singers. AFRITOPIC met two of the dancers/singers before the show in Berlin . The gentleman called Zulu and the lady dancer/lead singer by the name Motulati speak about their profession and goals in the following  interviews with AFRITOPIC. 

Afritopic: What is your professional background?

Motulati: I am a dancer; a ballet dancer. I studied ballet as well as modern jazz and graduated as a ballet teacher. In the ballet school, I was the only black student. After my graduation, I experienced discrimination and racism in my attempt to start my profession as a ballet teacher. The mothers of the white students did not want me to teach their children. Even my teacher did not like the idea of me teaching white students. I realized that I have no chance of being a teacher and had to give up. I searched for other jobs and was lucky to find appointment with television studio to participate in educational and advertising programs. This was a great relief for me financially because I needed money to support myself. I did not have a father to support me and my mother was just struggling to make a living. My father died when I was 2 years old. In fact I had to help my mother financially and support my only sister whenever necessary.

Afritopic: Life was definitely not easy for you. Did you have relatives or friends who supported you to overcome some of the difficulties you had?

Motulati: There was a lady who choreographed my dance shows. This lady was always giving me moral support and encouraging me to continue my studies. There were also a couple of friends who were telling me to go ahead and achieve my goals. I appreciated all the moral supports and motivating comments. However, I had to solve the financial problems myself. That is why I was happy to have the job with the television studio and later appointment as a dancer with a group in South Africa.

Afritopic: When and how did you become a member of the African Footprint group?

Motulati: I joined the African Footprint group in Cape Town. That was in January 2003. As mentioned earlier, I was earning money by working for the television studio and as a dancer. Meanwhile, I was getting tired of dancing from 9:00 am till 05:00 pm and wanted to be engaged in a more interesting project. I learnt that there was audition for African Footprint in Sun City. This seemed to be a good opportunity for me and I contacted the company. I was told that I did not have to take part in the audition because the director is familiar with my performances. I was immediately offered a job with the company and started dancing for one the company’s projects called extravaganza. In the year 2000, I took part in a shoe called “Power”. After seeing me perform in the show, Richard Loring (Executive Producer/Director of the company) and Debbie Rakusin (Choreographer) invited to take part in other shows of the company. Incidentally, one of the lead singers of African Footprint fell sick and I was offered to take up her role for the next show.

Afritopic: So you had to take up the role as a dancer and singer. Did you have any training as a singer?

Motulati: No. I never had any training as a singer. I believe it is my natural talent. God has given me the talent to sing. I am able to play my role in African Footprint by combining my training as a dancer with my natural talent as a singer.

Afritopic: Could you give a short description of your role in African Footprint?

Motulati: I play the role of a woman from the rural area that goes to town to look for her husband. The script depicts a typical scenario in South Africa in which a married South African man leaves his family in the rural area to work in the mines near the townships. While leaving in the town, the man is lured by sophisticated light-complexioned elegantly dressed women. The man becomes infatuated and forgets his family back home. His wife decides to look for him and remind him of his responsibility. She eventually finds him in amusement room with other women from town. The scene on stage expresses the despair and hurt the woman feels as well as an appeal for women solidarity to fight against men’s adultery and imposition.   

Afritopic: Being part of the show involves a lot of travelling and being away from your loved ones for example your mother. Does this affect your emotional feelings negatively?

Motulati: It is natural that people do sometimes have bad emotional feelings or get depressed. I cry when I am emotional. But at the end of the day, I lift up myself again. I ask myself, “Why should I be in such a mood for a long time?” I’ll then tell myself that life goes on and I have to be strong. I do not go to anybody for advice when I am in a depressive emotional mood because people generally have different opinions that may not necessarily be helpful. I sum up the energy to get back on to my feet and the next day, I feel better.

Afritopic: You are far away from home. How do keep the bond between you and your mother?

Motulati: I keep the bond by phone calls. I discuss with my mother every Sunday for about 20 minutes. She sends me SMS message if there is an urgent issue she wants to discuss with me. My mother is my best friend. My only sister and cousins are my closest friends. I do not have other close friends apart from them. I grew up in Soweto amidst different tribes. The tribal differences usually result in misunderstandings and problems. While growing up, I tried to avoid problems by avoiding close friendships with people who are not related to me. The fact that my father died when I was only two years old also impact my attitude towards close friendship. I was always sad when other children talked about their fathers and what their fathers did for them. I had nothing to say about my father and asked myself, “Why did my father die so early?”

Afritopic: How is the communication between members of the group? Is the African Footprint group like a family?

Motulati: Communication between members of the group is very good. We are like a family. When I joined the African Footprint team in Cape Town, I only knew two members of the group. With so many people in the group, I sometimes felt left out. I decided to organize a get-together party that would enable me and other members of the group to know each other. Each of us contributed 50 Rands for a Barbeque party on the beach. At the party, we introduced ourselves, had a lot of fun and got to know each other better. The atmosphere within the group is superb. If there are differences, we sit down together I talk about our differences. We do not indulge ourselves in grudges. This makes us to know and understand each other better. I practice openness. I let people know my feelings, what I like and what I don’t. There is no point hiding my feelings. If people do not know the way I feel, they would end up reacting to me wrongly.

Afritopic: Reflecting on your career so far, would you say that you are satisfied with what you have achieved?

Motulati: I would not say that. I am very broad-minded. The art sector is not a stable market. I would like to have my own company. The company would be an Information Technology company that would include interactive art. I like to work with people to exchange ideas and knowledge. By applying modern technology, I would like to present art in a different form.

Afritopic: As a teacher, dancer and singer, what sort of message would you pass on to people who would like to be a dancer/singer in a musical such as African Footprint?

Motulati: Whatever you do in life is possible through the talent the messiah has given you. Fight for what you believe in and learn from your mistakes. I would tell people to be truthful to themselves. If you are not truthful to yourself, nobody would recognize you and what you are preaching. Personally, I believe in God’s help and I pray a lot. I can only tell others to pray for God’s help.

Afritopic: What do hope to have achieved in 5 years from now?

Motulati: I hope to have my own family and a successful company.

Interview with Zulu

Afritopic: Where did you grow up in South Africa and when were you introduced to dance art?

Zulu: I grew up under the auspices of my grandmother in Pretoria till about my 13th birthday. I then moved to live with my mother for 3 years. My mother got married to another man when I was just 2 years old. Visual art was introduced to me when I was about 6 years old by my uncle, who was a fine artist. I started doing fine art; drawing and painting. Though I liked fine art and the creativity involved, I did not feel like making it my profession. After my secondary school education, I decided to study law at the University in Pretoria. But I dropped out after 2 years because I did not like it. I later enrolled for a 6 months training to become a policeman. This was during the apartheid period when policemen were targets of anti-apartheid groups. I still cannot explain today why I took the decision to join the police force. I was small in stature and the police uniform was too big for me. May be that was why I was offered an office job in the police department after my training. However, I did not stay long on the job because I realized that it was not for me.

I left the police force after 2 months and I decided to study drama. I felt if I have talent in visual art, I might as well have some acting talent which I could develop. I contacted a drama company that offered acting and dance lessons and was offered a place. While with the company in 1994, one of the dance teachers informed our dance class of a program that offered 3 years course in African dance, ballet and jazz dance among others. Though I was not very keen in taking the course, I decided to follow 3 other members of the class to the audition. I wanted to see the audition and gain some experience on what is required and how it is done. Usually the candidate is nervous at auditions. But since I did not want to take part in the course by all means, I was very relaxed at the audition and delivered a good presentation of my talent. After the audition, the director of the program immediately told me to take part in the 3 years course. I told him I would think about it and discuss the issue with my mother. This was necessary because my mother would not like me to be an artist. The general perception is that an artist does not earn enough money for a living and is not respected. My mother would rather want me to become a teacher or a lawyer.

I was 18 years old. I thought about the whole issue and was convinced that I have nothing to loose by taking part in the 3 years course. I started enjoying the program after 3 months of training despite all the rules and regulations I had to follow. Yes, there were very stringent rules to follow. I used to be late for classes in the beginning. One of our teachers then told me that it is better to be 3 hours earlier as a professional than being one second late. I got the message and changed my habit. Very high level of self-discipline was expected of every student. The class started with 28 students. At the end of the 3rd year, there were only 3 students left. I received my diploma after 3 years and attended a one year course to be a teacher.

I started getting nervous shortly before my graduation because I knew it would be difficult to get a job. I am qualified but the choreographers did not know me and most drama companies engage those they know. I started praying to God everyday to help me. I prayed for an opportunity that would make choreographers and directors recognize and acknowledge my talent. God heard my prayers. A week after my graduation towards the end of 1998, I was informed about the audition for African Footprint. I went for the audition at which David Matamela (Choreographer) and Debra Batzofin (Associate Producer / Production Director) were present. Both of them came to me after the audition and expressed their wishes to work together with me as part of the African Footprint team. Being part of the African Footprint team is like a blessing to me. It is not only the rhythm, the feelings and the choreography that fascinates me but also the story and the message. African Footprint tells the story of the struggle of South Africans, South Africa of today and preaches the gospel of Nelson Mandela to promote peace and harmony.

Afritopic: You prayed to God for help. Are you religious?

Zulu: I am a Christian by default because I grew up with my grandmother who was a Christian. But my uncle who introduced me to visual art became a Muslim and thus brought me nearer to Islamic religion. Through his influence, I see the positive parts of both Christianity and Islam. When I pray to God, I pray to the almighty. I neither pray to God as a Christian nor as a Muslim.

Afritopic: Was it a dream job for you right from the beginning or did you accept the role only as a stepping stone for a better offer?

Zulu: The four years course I attended thought me not only dance art but also to take whatever job I do very seriously. I was happy to be offered a part in African Footprint and I vowed to play my role with all the professionalism I have acquired through my training. By nature, I dedicate myself to what I decide to do. Even if I am not successful after putting in all my efforts, I have a clear conscience for giving all I can. I asked God to help me find a job and the Almighty helped. I have committed and dedicated myself to African Footprint. I am happy to be a member of the group and I love playing my role. Meanwhile I have been on stage in the show for more than 2000 times. I play my role with all my energy each time I am on stage. The audience should have the very best of me in every show.

Afritopic: Which role do you play in African Footprint?

Zulu: My role brings some humor in the musical. I play the role of a rascal, vagabond or a clown in the family. I am always going against the mainstream. These characters are illustrated by the dances I perform.

Afritopic: You have played your role in African Footprint for more than 2000 times with all your energy. How do you keep your high level of performance on days you are not in good mood?

Zulu: As I said earlier, I give my best in everything I do. Moreover, I believe that God has given me job and I would not want to take the job for granted and disappoint the Almighty. Motulati commented, “I watched the show for the first time in the year 2000 and saw Zulu performed with enormous vitality. Yesterday, I saw him in the show performing with the same energy. He has not changed.”

Afritopic: Are you satisfied with your achievement?

Zulu: Taking my age into consideration, I would say, “Yes, I am satisfied to a great extent”. With my role in African Footprint, I have been able to earn enough money to by a house and a car. My biggest goal was to own a house in South Africa.

Afritopic: What would you tell others that would like to be in a similar position as you are?

Zulu: In my experience, I realized that our parents push us most of the time to do what we do not want to do in terms of profession. I am of the opinion that this is dangerous. Parents should take notice of the interest and wishes of their children concerning profession/career path and support them in their choice of profession. You can only devote all your energy to what you love doing. If you intend to satisfy your parents by forcing yourself to take up a profession that you do not like, you would to be dedicated to the job. You would probably end up being unsatisfied and unhappy.

Afritopic: You are satisfied to a great extent with what you have achieved. Do you have other goals?

Zulu: My future goal is to open an art school in Springs, Gauteng province, South Africa. My mother lives there. There are a lot of talented youngsters but there is no art school. Most of the teenagers have nothing to do after completing the junior school. They start going astray. An art school would provide opportunities for the young ones to learn and develop their talents. Achieving this goal, would be my contribution to the community.

African Footprint:

Richard Loring (Executive Producer/Director)

Debra Batzofin (Associate Producer / Production Director)  

David Matamela (Choreographer)

Debbie Rakusin (Choreographer)  

Dave Pollecutt (deceased; Music / Lyrics)

Anthony Farmer (Set Designer)

Denis Hutchinson (Lighting Designer)

Don Mattera (Poetry)


African Footprint - Motulati and Zulu 2004 in Berlin




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