Kenya’s Yawa Dance Company headlined theEast African Nights of Tolerance, an annual contemporary dance festival was held in Kigali, on September 29. Their presentation was titled The Hanging Tree.
The play premiered earlier in September in Kisumu, Kenya.
Yawa Dance Company have mastered the craft of enthralling the audience from beginning to the end.
Starring Stellah Situma, Diana Odhiambo, Predictor Lodenyi, Lilian Acheing Owidi and Ozzy Ozzie, the performance tackles the issue of mental health, its profound effects, struggles of sufferers and how society has increasingly misunderstood the condition.
An iconic moment of the play is when Jeniffer Laurence’s song titled Hanging Tree plays in the background just before a group of four girls step onto the stage.
“Are You, Are You, Coming to the Tree… They strung up a man. They say who murdered Three...Strange things did happen here. No stranger would it be… Are You, Are You, Coming to the Tree. Where dead man called out for his love to flee...”
The song is reflective of the final ending of most sufferers of mental health, not just in Africa but around the world, which is suicide.
The 30-minute performance involves co-ordinated sound effects, which depict scenes of a troubled man in solitude. With what seems to be a heavy burden weighing him down, he is further oppressed by society with people laughing at his confusion and misery instead of offering solace and understanding.
Hanging Tree is a mixture of dance, music and theatre, which all captivate the audience.
“Contemporary Dance enables us to use the body as a medium to communicate with the audience,” said Ozzy Ozzie, the artistic director and choreographer.
After the Kigali show, Yawa Dance Company will perform in Nairobi, Kenya in October, then Kampala, Uganda and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania ahead of a European tour later next year.