Dancing through time: the common ground between Mozambique and Bosnia-Herzegovina

400 years of colonisation

By Jakub Salihović
400 years of colonisation. Freedom. Communism. Democracy. Assimilation. Bosnia and Herzegovina, however, is not the country in question; but rather, the history of Mozambique. And in what way this turbulent history was presented to Sarajevo's audience at this year's MESS festival.
The performance lasted a little over an hour. On stage, choreographer and dancer Panaibra Gabriel Canda alongside his right-hand man and guitarist, Jorge Domingos. Born and raised in Maput, he received training in theatre, music and dance, but further training in contemporary dance in Lisbon. At the beginning of the performance, Panaibra attempts to introduce himself to the audience; but he can not. “I am. I am. I am. Portuguese. No Portuguese African. No. Communist Democrat Mozambican. No. I am. I am?” His difficulty to identify himself leads the dancer to present each epoch of his country's past, as if asking the audience to help him come closer to answering “who am I?”, and does so in the most exhilarating of fashions; diverse rhythms, unbelievably quick feet juxtaposed with elegant hand and bodily movements: each period has its own pulse and tempo. Canda literally shows us how the firm fist of communism becomes the “free” hand of democracy; how a tribe evaporates under colonial rule. And how this has affected man; and how it affects the body.
-The body is a territory; and the aversion happens within the body. So how can I find the vocabulary to translate this aversion? I can use my body. My body is a territory which exposes experience; and shows how the body has been shaped through different experiences.
Canda finishes his dance through time by leaving us with the essence of what he wanted to say; he cites today's date and performs a dance we might all identify with: “I am mass. I am bones. I am muscle.” Here and now: that is what should matter. To which Sarajevo's audience responds with the loudest of applauses.
-I think we [BiH and Mozambique] share the same history. The body is colonised; and we fight to free it. Then suddenly there is another system. And the same body needs to respond to that, the changing... We share a common memory [in that sense].
Such themes, however, despite their particular resonance with BiH, are universal; and Canda asserts that his performances have resonated s in other places – in Berlin, for example. He leaves Sarajevo, however, with the award for 'Best Acting Performance.'